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Forensic Evidence

Catherine L. Bonventre, Wrongful convictions and forensic science - 18 October 2020
More than 2,600 exonerations have been documented in the United States since 1989. Forensic science—in the form of postconviction DNA testing—has played a critical role in the revelation that wrongful convictions are a problematic feature of criminal justice. Yet, forensic science is also among the manyfactors—including eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, informants, and more—that are correlates of wrongful convictions. Forensic science contributes to erroneous convictions when analysts provide invalid testimony at trial or when such evidence fails to correct false crime theories. Moreover, while intentional forensic misconduct certainly exists, the effects of confirmation biases may present a greater threat to forensic analyses. The preceding mechanisms and reform efforts are discussed. Read More.

Fingerprints and Miscarriages of Justice: 'Other' Types of Error and a Post-Conviction Right to Database Searching - 5 July 2018 
Much of what has been written about the role of friction ridge (“fingerprint”) evidence and miscarriages of justice has focused, understandably, on erroneous identifications, cases in which a crime scene print is erroneously attributed to a suspect (or, more rarely, a victim). This Article, co-written by Registry Director Simon Cole, undertakes a systematic and comprehensive examination of “other” types of error in friction ridge analysis and how they can, and have, contributed to miscarriages of justice. These errors include “missed identifications” and well as “missed exclusions.” Read more.

Strengths and Limitations of Forensic Science: What DNA Exonerations Have Taught Us and Where to Go From Here - December 2016 
The criminal justice system has historically accepted forensic science testimony with great deference and trust. After all, scientists are intellectually curious experts with specialized training who make dispassionate observations about the laws of nature. However, over the past 25 years, post-conviction deoxyribonucleic acid ("DNA") testing has revealed the limitations of scientific evidence by conclusively proving innocence in cases in which forensic analysts had previously presented evidence of guilt. In this way, DNA exoneration cases have prompted a more critical evaluation of forensic science in general. Read more.

Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions: From Exposer to Contributor to Corrector - June 6, 2012
Brandon Garrett's book, Convicting the Innocent, makes a number of important contributions to the scholarly and public discourse on miscarriages of justice. In this essay, I will focus on the contribution that is most related to my own reserarch interests: its contribution to our understanding of the relationship between forensic science and miscarriages of justice. Read more.

Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions - March 2009

This is the first study to explore the forensic science testimony by prosecution experts in the trials of innocent persons, all convicted of serious crimes, who were later exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing. Trial transcripts were sought for all 156 exonerees identified as having trial testimony by forensic analysts, of which 137 were located and reviewed. These trials most commonly included testimony concerning serological analysis and microscopic hair comparison, but some included bite mark, shoe print, soil, fiber, and fingerprint comparisons, and several included DNA testing. Read more.