Science Academy To Blast Forensic Evidence Practices



Forensic evidence that helps convicts scores of defendants often is the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, says a New York Times account of a draft report by the National Academy of Sciences due out this month. The Times quotes “people who have seen it” as calling it “a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.” The report says analyses often are handled by poorly trained technicians who exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court. It says Congress should create a federal agency to guarantee the independence of the field, which has been dominated by law enforcement agencies, say forensic professionals, scholars, and scientists who have seen review copies of the study.

In Lawbeat, a blog of the Carnegie Legal Reporting program at Syracuse University’s Newhouse journalism school, Mark Obbie notes that the Times’s front page story “is sourced so opaquely that the story requires readers to take on faith all its newsy facts.” Obbie says the “level of anonymity throughout the story is remarkable.”

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