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Forensic testing could lead to wrongful convictions

| Jul 17, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Criminal trials in New York and across the U.S. often involve forensic testing of evidence gathered at the crime scene. The test results of such evidence may be presented before a jury and could have a major influence on the outcome of the case.

Yet, not all tests yield accurate results. In some cases, erroneous test results, falsified information, mistakes made during the testing process or misapplied test results may lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.

The facts

According to the Innocence Project, the U.S. criminal justice system released 367 prisoners after further DNA testing in the case proved their innocence. False results, mistakes and misleading evidence was involved in 24% of wrongful conviction cases, as reported by the National Registry of Exonerations. Approximately 45% of these cases involved misapplied forensic science results.

Testing procedures

Some tests once used to process criminal evidence have either been replaced with updated testing procedures or are found to produce inaccurate results altogether, according to JSTOR Daily. These tests include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Comparative bullet lead analysis linking a bullet found at the crime scene to a particular gun.
  • Arson testing looking at burn patterns in the wood and furniture to determine where and how a fire was started.
  • Microscopic hair follicle analysis linking hair found at the crime scene with that of a suspect.
  • Tire tread analysis comparing tread marks found at the crime scene to those of a particular tire.

Other cases involved untrained or unqualified laboratory technicians making errors during forensic testing procedures, thereby affecting the accuracy of the results. Forensic experts can also misrepresent information in a court case or sway a jury’s interpretation of results by sharing the data in a certain way.


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