Some Judges Still Allowing Disputed Forensic Evidence

Analysis of bite marks, latent fingerprints, burn patterns in arson investigations, footwear patterns and tire treads was once considered sound. It is now being denounced by lawyers and scientists who say it has not been studied enough to prove its reliability and in some cases has led to wrongful convictions. Even so, judges nationwide continue to admit such evidence regularly,

Hundreds of people have been convicted at least partly on the basis of forensic science that has come under fire during the past decade. Some of that science — analysis of bite marks, latent fingerprints, firearms identification, burn patterns in arson investigations, footwear patterns and tire treads — was once considered sound, but is now being denounced by lawyers and scientists who say it has not been studied enough to prove its reliability and in some cases has led to wrongful convictions. Even so, judges nationwide continue to admit such evidence regularly, reports the Associated Press. “Courts — unlike scientists — rely too heavily on precedent and not enough on the progress of science,” said Christopher Fabricant of the Innocence Project. “At some point, we have to acknowledge that precedent has to be overruled by scientific reality.”

See also: When New Research Proves Courtroom ‘Experts’ Wrong

Defense lawyers say prosecutors and judges are slow to acknowledge that some forensic science methods are flawed because they have for decades helped win convictions. Such evidence can be persuasive for jurors, many of whom who have seen it used dramatically on “Law & Order” and “CSI.” Rulings in the past year show judges are reluctant to rule against long-accepted evidence even when serious questions have been raised about its reliability. Two reports by scientific boards have sharply criticized such forensic evidence, and universities are moving toward more precise biometric tools. Some defense lawyers fear any progress on strengthening forensic science may be lost under President Trump. In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would disband the National Commission on Forensic Science, an independent panel of scientists, researchers, judges and attorneys that had been studying how to improve forensic practices.

from https://thecrimereport.org