How Much Faith Should Juries Put in Forensic Evidence?

If you watch any crime drama on television, you know the scoop: the case could be up in the air with no way to nab the culprit—until miraculously, a fingerprint or a wayward strand of hair is discovered by a fervent detective. Instantaneously, it seems, the evidence is analyzed in the lab, proving without question who is guilty of the crime. The perpetrator goes to jail, and justice is served. But how accurate is this depiction of the criminal justice system at work? If you are being charged with criminal activity and there is forensic evidence that puts you at the crime scene, there are several things you should know. 

Justice is Slow

For starters, unlike on TV, it takes a lot of time — weeks, months, and sometimes years — after a crime is reported until it goes to trial. Moreover, forensic evidence is not quite as cut and dried as it appears on the screen.

  • Hair analysis: The forensic analysis of hair has been under scrutiny of late—in fact, it is sometimes referred to as pseudoscience. That is because so many of the characteristics of hair are extremely common, so the likelihood of an accurate match is slim to none.  According to The Guardian, one expert in the field stated that microscopic examinations are essentially without value except as a method to exclude a suspect.
  • Fingerprints: Examiners — the majority of whom have never been required to pass any sort of accreditation or testing standards — are taught to report their findings with certainty. Unbelievably, however, training standards for fingerprint analysts vary from state to state, and many of the conclusions reached by these fingerprint “experts” should be viewed as less than airtight, to say the least. The problems with fingerprint identifications are becoming more and more well-known, leading many courts across the country to exclude fingerprint evidence altogether! That is because the accuracy of fingerprint identifications has not ever really been tested.  

Challenging “Expert” Testimony

When your defense team encounters what they consider dubious conclusions made by a supposed expert, Daubert Motions can challenge the testimony based on any of three key areas:

  • The qualifications of the “specialist”;
  • The methodology used to arrive at specific conclusions;
  • The accuracy of the science itself.

These are precisely the types of challenges that give a judge reason to doubt the legitimacy of “expert” testimony. Such challenges could benefit defendants by prompting a judge to instruct a jury to give less weight to such testimony, to strike the testimony related to that evidence altogether, or even to dismiss the case outright.  

A Strong Criminal Defense

The experienced, tough criminal defense lawyers at Boertje & Associates look at every angle when crafting a legal defense strategy. If you are facing criminal charges, schedule a confidential consultation in our San Diego office today.

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