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  • user warning: Table './conserva_drupal/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p>FORENSIC SCIENCE: May 23, 2018</p>\n<p>On TV crime shows like &ldquo;CSI,&rdquo; &ldquo;NCIS&rdquo; and &ldquo;Law &amp; Order,&rdquo; science gets the bad guys.<br />\n In real life, &ldquo;science&rdquo; often ensnares the innocent.<br />\n Former NYPD Detective Harry Houck gets annoyed when TV shows make forensic science look infallible.<br />\n &ldquo;You watch a detective get down and look at a body (and say), &lsquo;He&rsquo;s been dead for three hours now... (H)e ate dinner four hours ago,&rsquo;&rdquo; scoffs Houck. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t do that.&rdquo;</p>\n<p> ON TV, experts identify killers by their bite marks. In real life, experts claim they can do that.<br />\n The TV show &ldquo;Cold Case Files&rdquo; covered the trial of Alfred Swinton. He was convicted of murder because a bite-mark expert said his teeth matched a bite on the victim.<br />\n &ldquo;A perfect match!&rdquo; said Dr. Gus Karazulas, the &ldquo;forensic odontologist&rdquo; whose testimony clinched the conviction.<br />\n Karazulas sounded impartial and objective. &ldquo;A forensic scientist is not on the side of the prosecutor or defense,&rdquo; he said on &ldquo;Cold Case Files.&rdquo; &ldquo;We look at the evidence.&rdquo;<br />\n But Swinton was innocent. Lawyer Chris Fabricant helped get him released from jail by doing a DNA test, a much more reliable, less subjective form of science.<br />\n Fabricant scoffs at bite-mark testimony: &ldquo;The doctor was just wrong. It&rsquo;s an unreliable technique.&rdquo;<br />\n The more room there is for an expert witness&rsquo;s unique interpretation of the data, the more that can go wrong, says Fabricant. &ldquo;Bite mark is similar to you and I looking at a cloud. I say to you, &lsquo;John, doesn&rsquo;t that cloud look like a rabbit?&rsquo; And you say, &lsquo;Yeah, Chris, I think that does look like a rabbit.&rsquo;&rdquo;<br />\n That kind of junk science puts innocent people in jail.<br />\n I told Fabricant that I assumed most people in jail are guilty. Also, many people say crime is down because aggressive law enforcement has locked so many people up.<br />\n &ldquo;If you think that maybe even one percent of convicted defendants may be innocent,&rdquo; replied Fabricant, &ldquo;we have 2.6 million people in prison today, (so) we are talking about tens of thousands of (innocent) people!&rdquo;<br />\n Fabricant works with the Innocence Project, a group that works to get innocent people freed from prison. Through DNA evidence, the project&rsquo;s lawyers have helped free 191 people.</p>\n<p> THAT CONFIDENT bite-mark expert who got Swinton convicted now admits he was wrong. &ldquo;Bite mark evidence is junk science,&rdquo; he told us via email. He resigned from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.<br />\n But police still trust bite marks.<br />\n &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s say one tooth is missing in the front&rdquo; of a bite mark, explains Houck. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got to go, well, our suspect&rsquo;s got one tooth missing in the front. That&rsquo;s pretty good!&rdquo;<br />\n Houck says he&rsquo;d demand other evidence. But not all cops do &mdash; especially when scientific &ldquo;experts&rdquo; say someone&rsquo;s guilty.<br />\n Bite marks are just one dubious method police and prosecutors use.<br />\n FBI researchers claim are right more than 99 percent of the time. But that still leaves plenty of wrongful convictions.<br />\n After terrorists killed 193 people in Madrid, the FBI matched a fingerprint on a terrorist&rsquo;s bag to a man in Oregon named Brandon Mayfield. They arrested him. But Mayfield was innocent. Weeks later, Spanish investigators compared the prints more carefully and found the real terrorist.<br />\n Other techniques are even less accurate: Carpet-fiber evidence, gun tracing, use of psychics, hair matching.<br />\n &ldquo;A dog hair was associated wrongfully with a human hair,&rdquo; says Fabricant. &ldquo;Since the turn of this century, there have been 75 wrongful convictions (based on hair matches).&rdquo;<br />\n Why do judges and lawyers accept such dubious evidence?<br />\n &ldquo;We all went to law school because we don&rsquo;t know science, we don&rsquo;t know math,&rdquo; he replied. &ldquo;If somebody comes in in a white lab coat, and says, &lsquo;I&rsquo;ve been accredited by the American Board of Forensic Odontology,&rsquo; that&rsquo;s good enough for government work.&rdquo;<br />\n That shouldn&rsquo;t be. Too much is at stake.<br />\n Jurors tend to believe people who call themselves &ldquo;scientists.&rdquo;</p>\n<p> JUDGES SHOULD be more skeptical. They should ban junk science from courtrooms.</p>\n', created = 1574387517, expire = 1574473917, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:257f20cdab1cd277f45dfb5aca633fff' in /home/conserva/public_html/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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The Innocence Project: Junk science, false convictions

FORENSIC SCIENCE: May 23, 2018

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