U.S. Justice System Rampant With ‘Bad Science’

44794518-30152305-300225 Every year, convictions for serious crimes occur based on debunked pseudo-science such as forensic dentistry and arson science. Add in poor usage of police lineups and fingerprinting, and the potential for finding innocent people guilty is immense. All in all, our courts are scientifically impaired to a degree that’s a menace to justice. Via Yahoo News:

The story of an American man cleared of a rape and robbery conviction by DNA evidence after spending 30 years in jail made headlines across the world on Tuesday.

But despite advances in science and technology, such exonerations are rare, and experts say the US criminal justice system remains riddled with problems that arise from outdated practices and, quite simply, bad science.

Perhaps the worst offender is the police lineup. Research shows that 75 percent of all wrongful convictions that are later cleared by DNA evidence start with eyewitness mistakes.

That was the case for Cornelius Dupree, who was fingered in 1979 by a rape victim who incorrectly picked him out of a photo array. Texas District Judge Don Adams on Tuesday declared Dupree, 51, “free to go” after serving more than 30 years behind bars.

“Cornelius Dupree spent the prime of his life behind bars because of mistaken identification that probably would have been avoided if the best practices now used in Dallas had been employed,” said attorney Barry Scheck.

Changing the way photo lineups are done is key, because memory is flawed and witnesses are prone to subtle suggestion by police who want to catch a criminal, according to University of Virginia School of Law professor Brandon Garrett. But in a country where tens of thousands of cases each year rely on eyewitness testimony for convictions, the scale of reform is falling far short.

The same holds true for other old-fashioned police methods that remain in practice even though modern day science has disproved their reliability.

“I actually divide forensic science into two big camps,” said Michael Saks, law professor at Arizona State University. “There is the camp that is using real science that is borrowed from basic science, such as chemistry and DNA.

“On the other hand you have got the kind of — well, my kindest word for it is almost-science or wannabe science, and that includes handwriting, fingerprints, fire and arson investigation and forensic dentistry.”

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  • Jason

    It really bothers me when i hear about stuff like this, especially that the courts and the cops and the accusers did not pay ANY price. How do you sue the whole system for 30 years of your life back? Sorry we stole your whole life unjustly, you can go now….? This shows truly how little justice or even how little wisdom still exists in our society today. These are primitive times.

    I’m going to quote an offspring song now because it’s particularly relevant.

    “When the truth walks away, everybody stays ’cause the truth about the world is that CRIME DOES PAY
    So if you walk away, who is gonna stay? ’cause i’d like to think the world is a better place.”
    The Offspring ~ “Americana”

    Can we have the truth back? Please? It seems to me that most business and government practices avoid the truth at all costs, where does it say that a separation of church and state is an excuse to remove morality from law, but not the arbitrary need for every politician to identify themselves as a christian? which, if you will notice, is an incorrect identification, since a politician’s career is almost entirely based on lying to obtain votes and submitting to bribery and intimidation for suggestions on how to vote rather than committing to the integrity of the people they’re supposed to represent.

  • Jason

    It really bothers me when i hear about stuff like this, especially that the courts and the cops and the accusers did not pay ANY price. How do you sue the whole system for 30 years of your life back? Sorry we stole your whole life unjustly, you can go now….? This shows truly how little justice or even how little wisdom still exists in our society today. These are primitive times.

    I’m going to quote an offspring song now because it’s particularly relevant.

    “When the truth walks away, everybody stays ’cause the truth about the world is that CRIME DOES PAY
    So if you walk away, who is gonna stay? ’cause i’d like to think the world is a better place.”
    The Offspring ~ “Americana”

    Can we have the truth back? Please? It seems to me that most business and government practices avoid the truth at all costs, where does it say that a separation of church and state is an excuse to remove morality from law, but not the arbitrary need for every politician to identify themselves as a christian? which, if you will notice, is an incorrect identification, since a politician’s career is almost entirely based on lying to obtain votes and submitting to bribery and intimidation for suggestions on how to vote rather than committing to the integrity of the people they’re supposed to represent.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    So we’re marginally better off than “If she weighs the same as a duck . . . therefore . . . ”

    But let’s face it. There are some legitimate reasons to rely on junk science instead of the good stuff:

    1. You’d never get a high enough conviction rate to appease an electorate more concerned with seeing someone punished rather than seeing justice done.

    2. You’d only highlight the shocking inadequacy of the American people’s scientific education, political involvement and commitment to moral behavior.

    3. It’d likely cost $$. Taxpayer money. Giving the “mistaken” impression that a properly funded and operating government apparatus serves some valid purpose. And remember, we’ll never be able to institute a full corporate fedual state unless we “starve the beast”.

    4. It would only reinforce batshit, Left-Wing claptrap about evidence-based approaches to life. Next thing you know the rat-fink Commie bastards’ll be talking about separation of church and state and women’s reproductive rights. Nip it in the bud, my friend–undermine the rhetorical acceptability of science-based approaches altogether.

    Bottom line is, America just doesn’t give a flying fuck about anything any more. Science takes too much effort.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    So we’re marginally better off than “If she weighs the same as a duck . . . therefore . . . ”

    But let’s face it. There are some legitimate reasons to rely on junk science instead of the good stuff:

    1. You’d never get a high enough conviction rate to appease an electorate more concerned with seeing someone punished rather than seeing justice done.

    2. You’d only highlight the shocking inadequacy of the American people’s scientific education, political involvement and commitment to moral behavior.

    3. It’d likely cost $$. Taxpayer money. Giving the “mistaken” impression that a properly funded and operating government apparatus serves some valid purpose. And remember, we’ll never be able to institute a full corporate fedual state unless we “starve the beast”.

    4. It would only reinforce batshit, Left-Wing claptrap about evidence-based approaches to life. Next thing you know the rat-fink Commie bastards’ll be talking about separation of church and state and women’s reproductive rights. Nip it in the bud, my friend–undermine the rhetorical acceptability of science-based approaches altogether.

    Bottom line is, America just doesn’t give a flying fuck about anything any more. Science takes too much effort.

    • King

      Well said, Liam!!

  • Hadrian999

    our system rewards wins, not just conclusions, mix that in with the total bs that gets put out by cop and csi shows the average citizen is conditioned to see cops as infallible heroes that would never tell a lie, defense council are all corrupt snakes and civil rights are there to protect the bad guys

  • Hadrian999

    our system rewards wins, not just conclusions, mix that in with the total bs that gets put out by cop and csi shows the average citizen is conditioned to see cops as infallible heroes that would never tell a lie, defense council are all corrupt snakes and civil rights are there to protect the bad guys

  • Butter Knife

    It sounds like the problem isn’t bad science, per-se, so much as imprecise science being presented as perfectly reliable combined with shabby police work and partial juries.

    I’d also posit that our system is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst, except for all the others. Yes, we have improper convictions, flawed legal procedures, systemic iniquity, and all that… but very few places really compare favorably with us in terms of their judicial process or outcome. Certainly, I would take our justice system over one in which a highly visible political dissenter can be convicted of stealing oil from his own oil company after being convicted of defrauding the State and citizens through that very same oil company, or over one in which women can be sentenced to death for being literate, or over one which formally uses separate rules depending on caste or religious beliefs or political party membership, or over one which accepts an accusation of guilt as substantive prima facie evidence against a party and thus forces a defendant to prove their innocence rather than requiring a prosecutor to prove their guilt.

    As I so often say to rabid right-wingers, just because you’ve identified some problems with the system, that doesn’t mean you’ve proven the entire system is completely broken and must be done away with entirely… merely that there is room to improve it. We would not be well-served by abandoning all of our established practices, but rather by adjusting how we apply and view them.

  • Butter Knife

    It sounds like the problem isn’t bad science, per-se, so much as imprecise science being presented as perfectly reliable combined with shabby police work and partial juries.

    I’d also posit that our system is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst, except for all the others. Yes, we have improper convictions, flawed legal procedures, systemic iniquity, and all that… but very few places really compare favorably with us in terms of their judicial process or outcome. Certainly, I would take our justice system over one in which a highly visible political dissenter can be convicted of stealing oil from his own oil company after being convicted of defrauding the State and citizens through that very same oil company, or over one in which women can be sentenced to death for being literate, or over one which formally uses separate rules depending on caste or religious beliefs or political party membership, or over one which accepts an accusation of guilt as substantive prima facie evidence against a party and thus forces a defendant to prove their innocence rather than requiring a prosecutor to prove their guilt.

    As I so often say to rabid right-wingers, just because you’ve identified some problems with the system, that doesn’t mean you’ve proven the entire system is completely broken and must be done away with entirely… merely that there is room to improve it. We would not be well-served by abandoning all of our established practices, but rather by adjusting how we apply and view them.

    • Hadrian999

      too often the ” were better than the others” argument is used as a cop out to avoid working towards anything better.

  • Hadrian999

    too often the ” were better than the others” argument is used as a cop out to avoid working towards anything better.

  • King

    Well said, Liam!!

  • Hadrian999

    this guy is either lying or a saint, If i lost my entire youth like he did I would want blood from all the people who took part in stealing my life, cops, judge, prosecutor, jury. they stole his life he cant raise a family, have a normal career not to mention all the horrors he had to endure in prison.

  • Hadrian999

    this guy is either lying or a saint, If i lost my entire youth like he did I would want blood from all the people who took part in stealing my life, cops, judge, prosecutor, jury. they stole his life he cant raise a family, have a normal career not to mention all the horrors he had to endure in prison.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      It is very interesting, the variety of responses victims have to this type of injustice.

      I’m acquainted with a handfull of cases analogous though not identicle to this one, and most of them actually got burnt out of their anger long before the injustice was publicly recognized. Some of them said things to the effect, “Y’know what? I’ve only got one life. If I spend what I’ve got left stoking anger at the part that’s been taken from me, I’ll end up throwing away the one part that’s left to me. Fuck it. My life. I’m living it for ME.”

      In one sense that’s admirable, that they still have the mental control to see it so rationally and act positively. Makes you wish that some people could look at long-standing communal conflicts like Palestine/Israel, etc. the same way.

      On the otherhand, I sometimes wonder if this enables the perps to just gloss over the immense harm they’ve done, not only to the individual, but to the fundamental trust that a society needs to have in its institutions.

      I don’t believe in a literal fire-and-brimstone Hell, and I really don’t think justice demands eternal damnation for evil-doers, but there at least ought to be some sort of Purgatory.

      • Hadrian999

        this situation has an effect similar to political corruption, it undermines the foundation society is based on, if you can’t trust the legal process or or governmental integrity there is really no reason to follow the law yourself.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          True. To the extent you have the $ and the connections to avoid the consequences.

  • Anonymous

    It is very interesting, the variety of responses victims have to this type of injustice.

    I’m acquainted with a handfull of cases analogous though not identicle to this one, and most of them actually got burnt out of their anger long before the injustice was publicly recognized. Some of them said things to the effect, “Y’know what? I’ve only got one life. If I spend what I’ve got left stoking anger at the part that’s been taken from me, I’ll end up throwing away the one part that’s left to me. Fuck it. My life. I’m living it for ME.”

    In one sense that’s admirable, that they still have the mental control to see it so rationally and act positively. Makes you wish that some people could look at long-standing communal conflicts like Palestine/Israel, etc. the same way.

    On the otherhand, I sometimes wonder if this enables the perps to just gloss over the immense harm they’ve done, not only to the individual, but to the fundamental trust that a society needs to have in its institutions.

    I don’t believe in a literal fire-and-brimstone Hell, and I really don’t think justice demands eternal damnation for evil-doers, but there at least ought to be some sort of Purgatory.

  • Hadrian999

    this situation has an effect similar to political corruption, it undermines the foundation society is based on, if you can’t trust the legal process or or governmental integrity there is really no reason to follow the law yourself.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    True. To the extent you have the $ and the connections to avoid the consequences.

  • WhiteRose

    The justice system is a JOKE!

  • WhiteRose

    The justice system is a JOKE!

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