Anyone facing a wrongful accusation, whether significant or minor, may feel its sting and the urge to set the record straight. However, according to the National Registry of Exonerations, accusations of criminal behavior often lead to a significant number of wrongful convictions annually.
Forensic science is responsible for many misinterpretations of crime scene evidence that profoundly compromise the justice system.
What is forensic science?
Forensic science relies upon the knowledgeable interpretation of evidence involving various legal matters, including criminal investigations, without bias. The criminal justice system depends on lab crime personnel’s objective analysis of physical evidence and conclusions to help law enforcement officials solve and prosecute crimes.
How can forensic science lead to wrongful convictions?
Unfortunately, forensic scientists do not always make irreproachable conclusions about the evidence they analyze. For example, many conduct their studies through cultural and individual bias lenses. Therefore, crime lab scientists may knowingly or unknowingly apply prejudices about the subject of their tests when creating reports and testifying about their findings.
Also, despite requirements for objectivity, court testimonies from forensic scientists often include inconclusive, qualitative language that is open to jurors’ interpretations and warrants a strategic defense to mitigate damaging effects on defendants. In addition, scientists working in crime labs do not bring peer-reviewed backing to their methodologies or apply statistical comparisons due to insufficient databases. This concern may be due to inadequate funding to ensure technicians have access to the latest equipment and resources to improve the reliability of their work.
The federal government now recognizes the necessity to improve the integrity of forensic science by funding training, research, equipment and various resources for crime labs in California and other states. However, this will not eliminate wrongful convictions and the importance of defending the innocent.