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Home > Blog > Criminal Defense > The Changing World of Faulty Forensic Science
Sep 15, 2015

The Changing World of Faulty Forensic Science

All different levels of law enforcement, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) all the way down to your local police department, have always claimed to use only the best and most accurate scientific methods to investigate crime. Unfortunately, this has been far from the case.

As has been shown time and time again by organizations like the Innocence Project, the “science” that law enforcement uses to solve crimes is not only inaccurate in practice, but actually never even had a chance of being accurate, in theory.

Back in April, the Department of Justice (DOJ) teamed up with the FBI and the Innocence Project to take a look at one of the investigation methods that the FBI had used for nearly two decades – microscopic hair comparison. This investigation method took a suspect’s hair sample, and compared it under a microscope to one found at the crime scene. If the two looked similar, visually, then it would be offered as evidence that the suspect was guilty of the crime charged.

Unfortunately, visually comparing hairs, even under a microscope, led to inaccurate results. In one case, this led to a conviction of murder and 28 years in jail. The wrongfully convicted man, Santae Tribble, was exonerated after it was discovered that the “matching” hair belonged to a dog. To make matters horrifically worse, this was not an isolated case of bad science ruining an innocent person’s life: According to the Washington Post, “nearly every examiner… gave flawed testimony in almost all trials” that used this investigatory technique.

There is good news, though. This type of bad science – the kind that is little more than guesswork, but that is made to sound indisputably 100% accurate – is finally being questioned, in large part due to the continued success of the Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project takes on appeals cases from prisoners who claim that they’ve been wrongfully convicted. In a shockingly high number of these cases, they’re right, with illegally coerced confessions, or inaccurate junk science providing most of the evidence to put them behind bars. It has taken time, but high profile cases of the Innocence Project exonerating someone who was wrongfully convicted because of woefully unscientific investigations have finally pushed law enforcement to consider policy changes.

Of course, when police change how they investigate crime, defending against criminal charges changes, as well. Staying on top of the developing world of forensic science becomes crucial for criminal defense attorneys to successfully defend you against criminal charges, so you don’t need the Innocence Project to appeal. William T. Bly makes a point to stay up to date on all of the developing trends in the ever-changing field of criminal defense. No matter the charges against you, having a criminal defense attorney with a nuanced understanding of how the police investigate crimes, like William T. Bly, can mean the difference between an acquittal, and an unjust conviction at the hands of faulty science.

Call William T. Bly’s law office at (207) 571-8146.

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