Replication, Social Sciences, and Forensic Science

This article connects the important work of Brian Nosek at UVA’s Department of Psychology and the hundreds of others of others involved in the Replication Project, with other systemic problems facing the broader scientific community – including the systemic errors found in crime labs.

Review of Dallas and Texas Bite Mark cases

The Dallas Conviction Integrity Unit and Lawyers at the Innocence Project are seeking to have a Dallas murder conviction based on a bite mark comparison reversed, the Dallas Morning News describes. There was a “1 to a million” chance, the forensic odontologist testified at the trial, that someone else made those marks.  The Texas Forensic Science Commission is also examining such cases state-wide.

“It’s subjective speculation masquerading as science,” said Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation for the New York-based Innocence Project.  Critics of bite mark analysis, including the National Academy of Sciences, say the procedure is based on unproven assumptions that lead to unreliable conclusions that shouldn’t be relied on to imprison people. Dentists who use the practice and testify in criminal cases concede that errors were made in the past, but they argue that teeth marks are still a valuable legal tool.

A Push to Regulate (and Expand) DNA Testing in India

The DNA Profiling Bill of 2015 did not garner passage in the most recent legislative session, as described in this account; it would create a national DNA databank and a scientific oversight body. Critics raise accuracy and privacy concerns.

Judge Alex Kozinski on 8 Criminal Justice Myths, including Forensic Myths

In an excerpt from a law review article by the Judge, he notes:

  1. Fingerprint evidence is foolproof.
    Not so. Identifying prints that are taken by police using fingerprinting equipment and proper technique may be a relatively simple process, but latent prints left in the field are often smudged and incomplete, and the identification process becomes more art than science. When tested by rigorous scientific methods, fingerprint examiners turn out to have a significant error rate [PDF]. Other types of forensic evidence have also been called into question by recent scholarship.
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