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Forensic evidence may not mean case closed

Facing a jury trial can be intimidating. Your future and freedom hinge on convincing 12 strangers of your innocence. If there is forensic evidence against you, you may feel the odds are also against you.

Juries tend to believe in forensic evidence, and many prosecutors know that presenting even the flimsiest evidence as scientific fact has the ability to sway some juries. However, at least one law professor is working to change the legal system so that juries see forensic evidence in a truer light.

Smoke and mirrors

Fingerprints found at the scene of a crime can have a profound impact on juries. Research shows that members of juries do not seem to care how confidently expert testimony links a fingerprint with a suspect. In fact, simply hearing that investigators found your fingerprint at the scene may be enough to convince a jury of your guilt. However, a similar study also showed that jurors are willing to consider that fingerprint comparison is not an exact science and that it is possible for forensic investigators to make errors.

In fact, studies reveal that when it comes to fingerprint analysis, one of every 18 fingerprint comparisons is wrong. Additionally, other forensic results stand on their own shaky ground, for example:

  • One in six bite-mark comparisons contain errors.
  • Many types of forensic evidence such as tool-marks, ballistics and handwriting analysis simply have no scientific basis.
  • Courts have overturned thousands of criminal convictions because of crime lab scandals.
  • Results from some crime labs contain contamination because of poor quality control.

North Carolina is only one of numerous states where crime lab scandals have brought convictions under question. Contaminated samples, falsified results and improper examination techniques are just of few of the factors raising concerns about the reliability of evidence presented to juries. Some feel that, as long as human beings play any role in the chain of evidence, the probability for error remains high.

Bringing the truth to light

Because of the prevalence of untrustworthy forensics, questionable evidence presented by prosecutors to a jury as foolproof and scientifically proven may mislead jury members into rendering a verdict that unfairly convicts you. In cases like yours, a strong and aggressive criminal defense strategy that questions and refutes unscientific forensic evidence has often provided a decided advantage.

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