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Using forensic science as evidence in court

While there are many types of evidence that can be used to prove a suspect innocent or guilty of committing a crime, not all types are deemed reliable. In fact, some types of evidence may be misconstrued or used to create false data that can lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. This includes a host of forensic methods, such as bite mark analysis, microscopic hair analysis and blood analysis. Some of the methods used to obtain evidence regarding a case are unable to provide consistent and reliable results indicating that a person is connected to a crime.

When presenting evidence in trial, it is crucial that the judge and jury are told about the scientific limitations of these tests. They should be aware that some tests have not been scientifically validated, and the results may not be a reliable source of information. The error rates of the testing methods should also be disclosed during the trial. Scientists who are giving the information in court should do so in a way that does not understate, omits or overplay the significance of the test results.

According to the Innocence Project, the misapplication of forensic science is a major contributor to wrongful convictions throughout the United States. It is important that people realize that scientists and lab technicians make mistakes, and that these errors may lead to false evidence submitted in court.

Source: The Innocence Project, “10 Year Anniversary of the Landmark Report on Forensic Evidence,” Harry T Edwards, Feb. 21, 2019.

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