Rss@dailykos.com (kelly Macias) · Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 8:11 pm
Here’s yet more proof (as if we needed it) on just how dangerous Jeff Sessions is to the American justice system and to the rights of almost everyone in this country. In late April, under the Trump administration, the charter for the National Commission on Forensic Science was not renewed. This means that the independent commission group of researchers, lawyers, judges, crime lab technicians, scientists and law enforcement officers who worked on trying to reform the field of forensic science and expert testimony are no longer at work. The message: important things like trying to promote scientific validity and improving federal coordination of forensic science are a waste of time and resources in the Trump era. This administration seems to have an aversion to all things scientific. And just like their denial of climate change and facts, this is not good.
Evidence regularly presented in court rooms—such as bite-mark, hair, and lead bullet analysis—that for decades have been employed by prosecutors to convict and even execute defendants are actually incapable of definitively linking an individual to a crime. Other methods, including fingerprint analysis, are less rigorous and more subjective than experts—and popular culture—let on.
But on the witness stand, experts routinely overstate the certainty of their forensic methods. In 2015, the FBI completed a review of 268 trial transcripts in which the bureau's experts used microscopic hair analysis to incriminate a defendant. The results showed that bureau experts submitted scientifically invalid testimony at least 95 percent of the time. Among those cases with faulty evidence, 33 defendants received the death penalty and 9 had been executed. No court has banned bite-mark evidence despite a consensus among scientists that the discipline is entirely subjective. One study found that forensic dentists couldn't even agree if markings were caused by human teeth. Until this month, the National Commission on Forensic Science was the most important group moving forensics into the modern scientific era.