Texas Courts Reviewing “Junk Science” That May Yield Wrongful Convictions


The exoneration of Michael Morton in Texas for killing his wife was the 45th in Texas based on DNA evidence, says the Texas Tribune, reporting in the New York Times. Before he dismissed the wrongful murder charges against Morton last week, Judge Sid Harle recounted the faults the case exposed in the Texas justice system, such as use of so-called junk science in the courtroom. “The courts and the sitting judges need to be ever mindful about their role as gatekeeper in regard to the admission of science,” Harle said. “Your case illustrates the best and the worst of what can happen.”

Despite scientific advances like DNA testing, the use of unreliable scientific techniques in the criminal justice system persists. While some judges say they work to ensure only reliable scientific evidence is presented to juries, criminal justice advocates say that more must be done to root out an array of pseudoscientific practices that can have life-or-death consequences. “What passes for science in courtrooms is not always, in fact, science,” said Kathryn Kase of the Texas Defender Service. In recent weeks, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to review cases that indicate it may also see a need to address the types of evidence that meet scientific standards.

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