Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shoddy Work in Forensic Labs

New York Times - Forensic evidence that has helped convict thousands of defendants for nearly a century is often the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, according to accounts of a draft report by the nation’s preeminent scientific research group.


It is interesting to note that that politics has found its way into this body of work. As the article notes, the National Institute of Justice has tried to subvert the report. Such activity is probably more than a turf war. It is further evidence of the politicization of the Department of Justice during the Bush Administration.

I image that police and prosecutors will soon weigh in as they have to defend their cases. Never mind that the wrong person may have been convicted and punished for a crime he or she did not commit. Believing that denial that mistakes are made will preserve confidence in the system when in fact just the opposite is true is sort of ironic. Cases of abuse, false testimony by police and witnesses, prosecutorial misconduct, and other sordid activities continue to undermine our confidence in the "justice" system.

How will this report impact Idaho? As the article notes, defense attorneys will be more apt to contest forensic evidence. I also hope that the forensic lab will become independent and its connection to law enforcement will be severed as recommend in the forthcoming report. Every criminal justice organization must strive for the highest levels of integrity and competence so as to maintain/increase the public's confidence.

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