Friday, February 13, 2009

National Academy of Sciences Blasts Nation's Crime Labs

A report being released this month by the National Academy of Sciences is expected to be "a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on," according to The New York Times last week.

People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.

The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court.
Its authors recommend the creation of a federal agency "to finance research and training and promote universal standards in forensic science, a discipline that spans anthropology, biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and law." Oh, and it also "calls for tougher regulation of crime laboratories." Hmmm....is it a surprise then to find out that the report's publication was delayed by opposition from law enforcement?

What is it with these guys? The reason for using science in investigations is to find the truth -- not to exaggerate it, distort it or create it, but to find it. Why do so many law enforcement personnel and prosecutors react so negatively to attempts to discover the truth about a crime? In the words of The King, it never ceases to amaze me that we continue to get resistance from certain State Attorneys to DNA testing, and even AFTER we have exclusionary DNA results in a case, they continue to resist. I mean, what exactly is it that THEY are seeking? It's certainly not the truth, or they would welcome testing if the evidence is available.

And what really got my ticker going was learning that
the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Justice Department, tried to derail the forensic study by refusing to finance it and demanding to review the findings before publication. A bipartisan vote in Congress in 2005 broke the impasse with a $1.5 million appropriation.
That's our National Institute of Justice, a misnomer if I've ever heard one. There is so much wrong with this that words fail me. I'm just sitting here shaking my head.

It's hard to say how much of an impact the report will have. The National Academy certainly shook things up in 2004 when they issued a report discrediting the practice of "matching the chemical signature of lead in bullets at a crime scene to similar bullets possessed by a suspect." The F.B.I. ended up having to contact hundreds of people who might have been wrongfully convicted due to this bogus science. One of them, Jimmy Ates, is here in Florida. Jimmy is now out on bond and waiting to see if the State will re-try him.

"Everyone interviewed for this article agreed that the report would be a force of change in the forensics field." We can only hope.

Read the entire article here.

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1 comment:

OliveRose said...

I don't know why this should surprise anyone anywhere. If you look at our (FL) proposed budget for 2009 Legal Affairs didn't get cut, but got more funding. I guess that is because there will be more law suits they have to fight. Sorry but finding out the truth is not on there Agenda.