Can Science Be Misstated In The Courtroom?
If you turn on any crime drama on television, you’ll likely see cases indisputably resolved with the aid of science. Fingerprints, strands of hair, even handwriting and bite mark analysis, convicts or exonerates defendants with regularity in Hollywood. How close does that track to real life? If you are facing charges that are based primarily on scientific analysis, here’s what you should know.
Here’s a surprising fact: the accuracy of fingerprint identifications haven’t really been tested. One issue is that training standards vary across the country. Astonishingly, most fingerprint examiners have never passed certification tests, making the conclusions of said “experts” dubious at best. Even so, examiners are trained to report that results are certain. This disparity with the facts has led many courts across America to exclude fingerprint evidence altogether.
Questions abound related to the accuracy of forensic analysis of hair. According to The Guardian, it is unlikely that hair samples can be accurately matched. That’s because particular characteristics of hair are extremely common, making a sure match nearly impossible. In fact, one expert in the area notes that such microscopic examinations are essentially useless in terms of identification, although it might be useful to exclude a suspect with this analysis.
It turns out that handwriting analysis is a largely subjective endeavor. Yes, training has become more standardized over time, but problems with the science persist:
- An error rate in the assessment procedure has not been established;
- Comparisons between upper- and lower-case letters is unreliable;
- One person’s handwriting arguably differs based on the purpose of the writing, a person’s health or emotional state, or other factors;
- It is often difficult to obtain writing exemplars with which to compare a writing sample.
Bite Mark Analysis
Legitimate conclusions cannot be reached based on bite mark analysis: that’s the determination of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The ambiguity of this analysis, in fact, has led the FBI to walk back previous claims that bite mark analysis can be viewed with reasonable certainty.
Daubert Motions to Challenge Expert Testimony
Dubious testimony given by an “expert” may be challenged by your defense team based on any of three areas:
- Qualifications of the person providing testimony;
- Methods used to draw conclusions;
- The accuracy of the science itself.
The benefits of such a challenge could lead a judge to put less weight on such testimony, to strike the evidence, or even to dismiss the case altogether. At the very least, the court will have reason to suspect the legitimacy of such testimony when artfully challenged.
Fighting for Justice
At Lobo Law, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to fair and equal treatment under the law. We pride ourselves on challenging the norms, and don’t back down from a fight just because it’s tough. If you are concerned about forensic evidence being used against you in a court of law, you need an aggressive defense. That’s exactly what we can promise. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation today.