Articles Tagged with forensic

Except in a slightly different context, but still a similar point.

Errin Morris, Cognitive Biasl and Evaluation of Forensic Evidence, The Champion, NACDL, May 2012.

Remember, USACIL and all the others get a full brief sheet on why the evidence should be tested and lots of facts.  The subsequent testing is not done in the blind.

MAJ Hasan’s UCMJ Article 32 hearing and likely court-martial is drawing and will continue to draw lots of attention — of course, duh.  But just as we have seen in other high profile cases there are opportunities for what I call teachable moments.  Here are two from the item posted by CAAFLog about the witness who was ordered to destroy a video of the shooting he made on his cellphone.  Forget the rhetoric about whether or not the Army was engaged in a cover-up.

1.  Contemporaneous video’s and photos can provide vital evidence for both sides.

Nixon said he remembered Hasan because of “his stature and just how he composed himself — stoic.”

Here is Professor Friedman’s post about Briscoe.

The Virginia Supreme Court today issued its decision in Briscoe on remand from the United States Supreme Court.  . The court held that the former Virginia statutory scheme (under which the defendant had to call a lab analyst as his witness if he wanted to examine the analyst) was unconstitutional. This, of course, was the point that I sought to establish in bringing the petition for certiorari; Melendez-Diaz made the point clear, and now the Virginia Supreme Court has drawn the obvious conclusion.
The court held that the error was harmless in Briscoe’s case, but Cypress’s conviction was reversed. I expect his case will plead out.

Here are the SCOTUSWiki links on the Supreme Court litigation.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has made some recommendations to Congress for legislation to reform forensic laboratories that obtain federal funds directly or through an organization (such as DoD) that receives federal funding.

Preliminary Outline of Draft Forensic Reform Legislation – 5/5/10.

Thanks GR.

Gianneli on the Unreliability of Microscopic Hair Analysis

Giannelli paul cPaul C. Giannelli (Case Western Reserve University School of Law) has posted Microscopic Hair Comparisons: A Cautionary Tale on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report on forensic science, “testimony linking microscopic hair analysis with particular defendants is highly unreliable.” This is a stunning conclusion because hair evidence has been admitted in numerous trials for over a century. 
The NAS Report was not the first to raise issues concerning hair evidence. In 1996, the Department of Justice issued a report discussing the exonerations of the first twenty-eight convicts through the use of DNA technology. This report highlighted the significant role that hair analysis played in a number of cases of these miscarriages of justice, including some death penalty cases. In 1998, a Canadian judicial inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin was released. His original conviction was based, in part, on hair evidence. The judge conducting the inquiry recommended that “[t]rial judges should undertake a more critical analysis of the admissibility of hair comparison evidence as circumstantial evidence of guilt.”

This is likely a duplicate post, but it’s worth it anyway.  Here again is a piece from my old Crim. Law prof about forensics.

Paul C. Giannelli (Case Western Reserve University School of Law) (University of Illinois Law Review, Forthcoming, Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-6) has posted Daubert and Forensic Science: The Pitfalls of Law Enforcement Control of Scientific Research on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences published a landmark report on forensic science: Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. The Report represents one of the most important developments in forensic science since the establishment of the crime laboratory in the 1920s. Within months, Justice Scalia cited the report in Commonwealth v. Melendez-Diaz, noting that “[s]erious deficiencies have been found in the forensic evidence used in criminal trials” and “[f]forensic evidence is not uniquely immune from the risk of manipulation.” After two years of studying fingerprints, handwriting, ballistics, and other common forensic techniques, the Academy concluded that “some forensic science disciplines are supported by little rigorous systematic research to validate the discipline’s basic premises and techniques.” Indeed, “only nuclear DNA analysis has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between an evidentiary sample and a specific individual or source.”

I’ve posted before about issues with forensic testing and police controlled laboratories (including military drug testing laboratories).  Here is an article from my old crim law professor, a former Army JA.  You’ve also heard me frequently talk about confirmatory bias in regard to police investigations and other investigations. 

Paul C. Gianelli, Independent Crime Laboratories: The Problem of Motivational and Cognitive Bias, to be published in the Utah Law Review.

One of the most controversial recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science — Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: The Path Forward — concerns the removal of crime laboratories from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies. For decades scholars have commented on the “inbred bias of crime laboratories affiliated with law enforcement agencies.” Some commentators have proposed independent laboratories as the remedy for this problem, and in 2002, the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment proposed the establishment of an independent state crime laboratory. This essay documents the problems that triggered the NAS Report’s recommendation. It also examines the counter arguments as well as alternative approaches, including additional measures that should protect forensic analyses from improper influence.

I’ve posted before about issues with forensic testing and police controlled laboratories (including military drug testing laboratories).  Here is an article from my old crim law professor, a former Army JA.  You’ve also heard me frequently talk about confirmatory bias in regard to police investigations and other investigations. 

Paul C. Gianelli, Independent Crime Laboratories: The Problem of Motivational and Cognitive Bias, to be published in the Utah Law Review.

One of the most controversial recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science — Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: The Path Forward — concerns the removal of crime laboratories from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies. For decades scholars have commented on the “inbred bias of crime laboratories affiliated with law enforcement agencies.” Some commentators have proposed independent laboratories as the remedy for this problem, and in 2002, the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment proposed the establishment of an independent state crime laboratory. This essay documents the problems that triggered the NAS Report’s recommendation. It also examines the counter arguments as well as alternative approaches, including additional measures that should protect forensic analyses from improper influence.

Before we place too much faith in police sponsored and monitored laboratories, here is a word of caution.

The New York State Police’s supervision of a crime laboratory was so poor that it overlooked evidence of pervasively shoddy forensics work, allowing an analyst to go undetected for 15 years as he falsified test results and compromised nearly one-third of his 322 cases, an investigation by the state’s inspector general has found.

New York Times reports.