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Junk Science in Criminal Court in a Serious Concern for the Accused

The average jury member has seen shows like CSI and Law and Order. In those shows, forensic evidence is often presented as definitive and damning for the accused. In real life, however, some forms of forensic evidence simply are not as reliable as they seem on TV.

This is a serious concern for defendants in a criminal case because the prosecution often uses this type of evidence as if it cannot be wrong. The reality is that a staggering amount of forensic evidence simply is not reliable enough to be used to convict someone.

Junk Science Leads to Questionable Conclusions

The FBI and the Innocence Project recently conducted a study to examine various kinds of forensic testing. They concluded that the testing used often leads to questionable results. For example, when they considered experts who testified regarding hair testing, they found that there were flaws in the reasoning or results in a shocking 95 percent of testimonies.

They also considered bite mark evidence compared to DNA evidence. They found that results of bite mark examinations that often led to convictions were simply incorrect. In fact, this incorrect or bad forensic science occurred in approximately half of all cases where post-conviction DNA evidence was used to determine that the accused was actually not guilty. By then, however, innocent people may have spent years in jail for a crime that they didn't commit.

The fact that the judge allows this type of questionable and often faulty evidence into the courtroom is not only concerning-it may even be a violation of the basic rights to a fair trial.

Why Do Courts Continue to Use Junk Science?

Unfortunately, keeping out questionable forensic evidence is difficult for the simple reason that courts have been using it for years. Courts are bound by prior cases. Criminal defense attorneys must vigorously argue to keep this type of inconclusive evidence out of the courtroom or attempt to explain to the jury why the evidence is invalid and should not be considered. It takes experience in legal analysis and cross examination to develop solid skills to battle junk science.

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