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Quality in Forensic Science

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FBI’s flawed forensics expert testimony: Hair analysis, bite marks, fingerprints, arson. Photo by Victorburnside/Thinkstock For more stories like this, like Slate on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.” Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. What went wrong? The Post continues: “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.” Chillingly, as the Post continues, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death.” This problem doesn’t stop with the FBI labs or federal prosecutions.

Sen. There is no lack of good ideas for reform. FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades. The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. How the flawed ‘science’ of bite mark analysis has sent innocent people to prison. This is part one in a four-part series. The rest of the series will be posted next week. Before he left the courtroom, Gerard Richardson made his mother a promise.

“I told her that one day she’d see me walk out of that building a free man,” he says. Her response nearly broke him. Richardson, then 30, had just been convicted for the murder of 19-year-old Monica Reyes, whose half-naked body was found in a roadside ditch in Bernards Township, N.J. There were only two pieces of evidence implicating him.

“I thought it was crazy,” Richardson says. Despite his certainty, Titunik’s analysis consisted of little more than a one-page report identifying Richardson as the culprit. In fact, when questioned at trial about his methodology — about why he was able to single out Richardson as the biter — Titunik relied on a more detailed report offered by Richardson’s own expert witness, Norman Sperber, also a bite mark analyst. Burke was held in jail for 41 days. Gerard Richardson (Photo by Radley Balko) Only on San Francisco crime lab whistleblower says scandal date... More questions are being raised about the reliability of the San Francisco crime lab.

The expert who exposed problems at the lab tells ABC7 News the lab supervisor offered misleading evidence in a 2010 murder trial. Lawyer and DNA expert Bicka Barlow is the one who complained to Police Chief Greg Suhr about serious problems at the crime lab. Specifically, that a supervisor, Cherisse Boland, failed to catch inconsistencies in a DNA analysis by a criminalist revealed during a murder trial last year. Barlow tells ABC7 News that five years ago, Boland -- then a criminalist -- misled the court during a double homicide trial by not telling anyone there was a DNA profile of the likely killer.

Instead, the DNA profiles she testified about pointed to other suspects. "She didn't tell anybody about it. Barlow says the inconsistencies came out during cross examination during the trial. Attorney Tony Tamburello represented one of the suspects who was acquitted. Warning by spending watchdog over forensic science work. 21 January 2015Last updated at 12:27 ET Forensic science standards risk slipping since work was transferred to in-house police labs and private firms, the spending watchdog has warned. The National Audit Office said there was too little data on forensic services used by forces and companies risked being pushed out of the market.

Crime scene evidence was analysed by the Forensic Science Service in England and Wales until it was axed in 2012. The Home Office said it monitored the forensic science market closely. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote How can anyone be certain, given the confusion, as to what is going to happen to the integrity of our whole criminal justice system?” End QuoteAndrew Miller MPChairman, Commons Science and Technology Committee Police are commissioning more work from their own laboratories - with an estimated £122m being spent this year - but the NAO said many in-house labs did not meet accreditation standards.

"Should it worry us? Forensic transition: A timeline. World's End forensic scientist findings 'misguided' 5 November 2014Last updated at 13:24 ET Christine Eadie and her friend Helen Scott were killed in October 1977 A forensic scientist in the World's End trial has been accused of making are "misguided, unjustified and positively misleading" findings in her report. Angus Sinclair, 69, denies raping and murdering 17-year-olds Helen Scott and Christine Eadie in October 1977. He is accused of carrying out the attacks along with his late brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton. The defence was disputing the findings of Geraldine Davidson during their cross examination.

Ms Scott and Ms Eadie were last seen at the World's End pub in the centre of Edinburgh. Mr Sinclair said he had consensual sex with the girls and blames his brother-in-law for the teenagers' murders. 'Positively misleading' The High Court in Livingston has heard six days of evidence from Mrs Davidson. Defence counsel QC Ian Duguid produced a report from scientists commissioned by the defence that did not agree with her findings. Fire incompetent people - forensic expert. Cape Town - Competence, common sense, and competitive wages are all that is needed to vastly improve the performance of the State's forensic laboratories, forensic expert David Klatzow said on Wednesday. "Remove incompetent people.

They need to be sorted out and fired and sent off to do something more useful," he told journalists at the Cape Town Press Club. Klatzow was responding to a question on what needed to be done to rescue the laboratories, which have been heavily criticised in recent years for the length of time they take to process evidence.

"You need to make certain people pass a minimum standard test to get in there. And you need to make sure salaries are properly paid, so that anybody half decent is not immediately poached by industry," he said. "And you need to use common sense, and... employ people who are competent, and not people who meet whatever crazy criterion this country requires. " "I've just written a book, but I can't match the book written by the police. Forensic Science Northern Ireland: Senior scientist leaves job after inquiry. 13 June 2014Last updated at 12:30 ET By Julian O'Neill BBC News NI Forensic Science Northern Ireland is a government agency that provides "impartial forensic science to support justice" and carries out work on behalf of both the prosecution and defence in criminal cases A senior scientist at a government agency is to leave his post after an investigation by Northern Ireland's Department of Justice (DoJ).

It found that it was inappropriate for him to be co-owner of a laboratory business while employed at Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI). The investigation said there was a potential conflict of interest and the scientist has chosen to retire early. The DoJ began an investigation after a complaint from a commercial company. Whistleblower The report will be sent to the Audit Office, but Justice Minister David Ford said two contracts awarded by FSNI had followed proper selection procedures.

"Why was it not properly registered in the first instance? " 'Never benefited' Error Rates – Limitations and Realities | SciTech Connect. How do you define error rate? This is the first question on a forensic science survey and one of the five flexible Daubert factors considered in the admission of scientific evidence. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Section officers were sent a brief survey exploring error rates – what they are and how they use them. The eleven sections of the AAFS were asked to apply questions about establishing error rates to each forensic specialty area.

These eleven AAFS sections include: Criminalistics, Digital & Multimedia Sciences, Engineering Sciences, General, Jurisprudence, Odontology, Pathology/Biology, Physical Anthropology, Psychiatry & Behavioral Science, Questioned Documents, and Toxicology. Responses varied, but none of the AAFS respondents had a personal error rate. Only one section refused to participate in the project. Do forensic scientists have error rates? Inspired by the mystery surrounding error rates in forensic science, I decided to ask the practitioners. Op-Ed: DNA laboratory fraud revealed in Amanda Knox case (Includes interview) New information in the Meredith Kercher Murder case has now emerged alleging that Patrizia Stefanoni, the lab technician responsible for DNA testing on behalf of the prosecution, committed scientific misconduct by suppressing data from faulty equipment and falsifying evidence in order to support the prosecution’s case.

Meredith Kercher was murdered in 2007, in Perugia, Italy. Three people were charged with the crime, Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Rudy Guede. Guede’s conviction was finalized and he is currently serving a 16-year sentence. Knox and Sollecito have been locked in a legal battle that continues to this day. Both were convicted in 2009, and then were declared innocent on appeal and released in 2011.

The two were then convicted once again in 2014, and have yet another appeal upcoming most likely in the fall of this year. Read more... New evidence has now surfaced suggesting that scientific misconduct may have contributed to the wrongful convictions of Knox and Sollecito. California’s Senate has approved an important new forensics bill. California’s state Senate has just approved an important new bill that would help people convicted of crimes due to bad science win new trials.

Let’s hope it gets passed into law. One of the most important things we’ve learned from DNA testing is that we have badly misjudged the reliability of a number of methods of forensic analysis. Most fields of forensics were developed by police investigators, not scientists, and aren’t subject to the rigorous standards of the scientific method, such as blind testing and peer review. Yet these methods are still presented to juries as “science.”

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a groundbreaking and disturbing report on how forensic analysis is used in America’s courtrooms. One problem with using even actual science in criminal cases is that science is always evolving. These attributes of the two institutions -- the evolving nature of science and the emphasis on finality after conviction -- can be a recipe for injustice. Faulty forensic science under fire. David Duprey/AP There is little evidence that bite marks on a crime victim’s skin allow reliable identification of the perpetrator. For 19 years, Gerard Richardson sat in prison in New Jersey wondering how forensics experts had got his case so wrong. His conviction for a 1994 murder was based on a bite mark on the victim’s body that seemed to match his own teeth; it was the main physical evidence linking him to the crime.

Last year, he was exonerated when DNA taken from the same bite mark turned out not to be his. According to the Innocence Project in New York, which tracks wrongful convictions, more than half of DNA exonerations involve faulty forensic evidence from crime labs and unreliable methods such as bite-mark analysis. Cases such as Richardson’s are one reason why the US Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have now created the first US national commission on forensic science. Hair Analysis: The Root of the Evidence Problem.

Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence. Examining The 'Red Flags' In A Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal. Extended Coverage WBUR has more on Annie Dookhan and the Massachusetts drug lab crisis, including: a timeline of events data from 58,070 drug test that Dookhan performed videos on the case updated news coverage See hide captionFormer state chemist Annie Dookhan, left, stands alongside her attorney on Friday.

David L. Former state chemist Annie Dookhan, left, stands alongside her attorney on Friday. Former chemist Annie Dookhan began serving a 3-to-5 year sentence in a Massachusetts prison on Friday after pleading guilty to falsifying tests of drug evidence and helping to create one of the nation's largest drug lab scandals. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says the state is taking steps to improve forensic testing: "It is certainly lessons learned," she says.

Dookhan admitted that she didn't always test the drug evidence she said she did, and that she sometimes forged co-workers signatures. Very few states require accreditation. Science Needed To Help Free Innocent Prisoners. Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online Thousands of convicted inmates are sitting in a prison, including dozens on death row, that are innocent, but one project is collaborating with the American Chemical Society (ACS) to try and keep forensic experts accountable to science.

Forensic scientists, attorneys and others that are a part of The Innocence Project put out a call to scientists at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society to get involved in trying to exonerate convicted people in the prison system. In recent years, forensic scientists have come under scrutiny, particularly after being called out by the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, an FBI supervisory agent who works in the agency’s crime laboratory, said “we are looking at a social problem, not a science problem,” during a press conference attended by redOrbit at the ACS event.

“Did it come off the shoes of the men who just came from the bomb range? Make forensic evidence meet standards of science. By Cliff Spiegelman, William A. Tobin For decades, largely unrealized by judges, many of the forensic practices admitted into judicial proceedings have been without scientific foundation or any other logically acceptable basis other than observational (inductive) study by experimenters untrained in experimental process. Most troubling are the declarations of certainty associated with proffered expert opinions in those unfounded practices as expressed by examiners in criminal proceedings, such as in firearm/toolmark identification. Despite the lack of true scientific foundation, firearm/toolmark examiners typically state to a practical certainty that a defendant’s gun was the only possible firearm that could have fired the fatal bullet in a murder.

The identification is made on the basis of scratches (striae) and/or impressions on the bullets and comparisons with defendants’ guns. Michael Blair was condemned to death for the 1993 molestation and murder of a 7-year-old girl. ROCKEFELLER?S BILL ON FORENSICS WILL REDUCE WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS - Press Releases - Press Room - United States Senator Jay Rockefeller. Forensics on the Hill: Part I - The Huffington Post. Forensic Regulator codes-practice-conduct.