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exonerations are rare, and experts say the US criminal justice system remains riddled with problems that arise from outdated practices and, quite simply, bad science.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.”