Monday, October 4, 2010

Beware of Junk Science in The Criminal Justice System

The Cameron Todd Willingham case has raised serious questions about the Texas criminal justice system. To many, the issue is whether Texas executed an innocent man. To the Innocence Project of Texas, the questions raised by this case are much bigger. To us, the real issue raised by the Willingham case is the ongoing use of "junk science" to falsely convict the innocent.

What is junk science? There are few things more convincing to a jury than scientific evidence presented by expert witnesses called by the state in a criminal case. Sometimes, however, the so-called science used by prosecutors isn't science at all.


Forensic science labs represent one more needed area of reform. Immediate steps should be taken to remove all forensic labs from under the supervision and budget authority of police agencies (as in the case of the Idaho State Police)  in order to make them more independent and less susceptible to the influence of the police and prosecutors. Defense attorneys must become better informed about forensic science so they and their clients do not fall prey to the junk science that is so prevalent today in the criminal justice system.

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