For decades, prosecutors have relied on crime-solving techniques such as fingerprints, ballistics analysis, and eyewitness accounts to put people behind bars, even on death row. Now, in the aftermath of the stunning impact of DNA testing, many of those time-tested methods are under legal attack, says the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Fingerprint and firearm analyses, arson investigations, and forensic conclusions about bite marks, footprints, and hair and fiber comparisons have, in varying degrees, all been called into question. There are even growing concerns about what was once considered unassailable evidence of guilt – a confession. “People in the criminal justice system, including judges, have a lot more skepticism than they once had,” said Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, who has presided over criminal cases for more than 20 years. David Faigman, a professor at the University of California Hastings School of the Law, said one day people would look back with dismay on all the defendants convicted of crimes based on “pseudoscience” and old-fashioned techniques.