New Report Calls for Forensic Science Reform

Every week viewer's watch as the crew of CSI finds the bad guy and proves they were behind the crime. Forensic evidence usually plays a big role and while it is not all based on reality, a lot of the science is real.

However a new study by the National Academy of Sciences is calling in to question the labs that handle evidence and whether it may be leading innocent people to be convicted.

Read a summary of the study

During a trial it's pretty convincing when the suspect's hair, shoe print, or even strands of clothing are at the crime scene. But could juries have been misled?

Carefully marked vials and expensive machines, it's what you expect in a crime lab. But a new report says there is no standard and that makes results unreliable.

"In some instances, it is actually dishonest. It's purposely attributing some of these mistakes to forensic science when in reality that is not the case," said Metro's Director of Lab Services Linda Krueger.

The report blames faulty forensic evidence and testimony for 60-percent of wrongful convictions, but Krueger calls that misleading, saying scientist have always been honest about it's ability to prove guilt, "You wouldn't find someone saying, this hair came from that individual's head to the exclusion of everyone else."

Krueger says labs don't handle evidence the same way, but it's for a reason, "If you are lifting a shoe print at a crime scene, you can't use the exact same techniques in Las Vegas that you are going to use in Southern Florida. The environment is too different."

Currently there's no federal standard that every lab must adhere to. However there are some labs, like Metro's, that are accredited and must meet set standards in testing evidence, "We can't just look in a book and say, ‘This is the method that we are going to use today.' Absolutely not."

And while the report calls for more oversight, Krueger says her lab already has that in place, "There are requirements before a case goes out for technical review for those cases. There are requirements for administrative review. There are requirements for proficiency testing for personnel in the laboratory."

The report pushes for labs to be independent of police to keep testing objective, but Krueger says that's fiscally impossible and not needed when independent thought is a requirement for the lab.

The report did call DNA evidence reliable, since it can be traced to a single individual. But it wants other forensic evidence to be better presented in court as not reliable for proving guilt.


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