FROM Spencer Hsu
Forensic Testimony Called Into Question Crime lab scenes on television are full of forensic mumbo jumbo -- and now it seems that the real-life experts at the FBI have been making stuff up too. The FBI and the Justice Department have announced that agency experts’ bad testimony helped convict hundreds of suspects of murder, rape, and other violent crimes. In 32 of those cases, defendants received the death penalty. And 14 of those have been executed or died in prison. The main problem is hair analysis, which turns out to be not very accurate.
Forensic Science and the Wrongful Conviction of Innocent People Mistakes made at the FBI's crime lab may have helped put thousands of people behind bars, based on faulty analysis of forensic evidence. The alarm bells went off in 1995, when an FBI special agent testified in the high-profile terrorism trial of the Muslim sheik suspected of plotting the first attack on the World Trade Center. A chemist and lawyer, he told the court he'd been pressured by his superiors to ignore forensic findings that didn't support the government's theory of the bombing. The uproar that followed prompted a Justice Department investigation. But the report, which took nearly a decade to complete, was never released publicly. A Washington Post report found several wrongful convictions. What about the other cases? How reliable is forensic evidence? Are new standards and oversight needed?
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