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(Washington Post)   The FBI is quietly reviewing the forensic evidence used to convict thousands of defendants after coming to the conclusion that "hair and fiber analysis" is basically junk science   (washingtonpost.com) divider line 70
    More: Followup, FBI, Forensic identification, fiber analysis, FBI Laboratory, Innocence Project, mistakes were made  
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4501 clicks; posted to Geek » on 11 Jul 2012 at 1:23 PM (3 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-07-11 10:08:51 PM  

SN1987a goes boom: Magorn: Things people (epecially CSI watchers) think are real science

1) Hair and fiber analysis
2) "paint matching"
3) Fire reconstruction and "burn pattern analysis"
4) Fingerprint Matching
5) DNA matching

Things that are actually science

5) DNA*

*and then it is far more defintive in excluding people than when including them, the often used line in testimony that there is only a "1 in 600 billion chance" of two people having the same DNA is pure bullshiat because a) They've never tested a sample size that large for obvious reasons b) The test only a limitied number of alleles and the science isn't all that clear yet how many of them are purely random and how many are closely tied to certain racial groups

Are you saying fingerprints can't be used as evidence?


Watch this when you've got an hour to spare and judge for yourself.
 
amo
2012-07-11 10:17:16 PM  

Honest Bender: Karac: I gotta say I agree with the group at the bottom of page 1, a forensic lab should be associated with law enforcement as little as possible. Police should collect evidence, stuck a random ID number on the bag and have it couriered to the lab. The lab looks at it, and sends it back with a report saying it matched samples x, y, and did not match sample z. A fingerprint doesn't change depending on what the owner's name or race is, or whether he is suspected of jaywalking or killing a cop so why should the print technician know those details; at best it would do nothing, at worst it would influence his findings to get the bastard.

I've been toying around with a similar idea for a while now. Some way to make the entire legal system actually, factually blind. Find some way to completely mask the identity of the defendant for the entire trial. Never use their name, etc.

It would go a long way towards preventing juries from deciding based on a slew of non-relevant criteria (sex, race, celebrity, etc). Imagine if the rich, powerful, and famous weren't treated differently in court?

/Very tough to implement though...
//Justice should be blind


Assign all the defendants, witnesses, etc., identities from The Simpsons.

/jk
 
2012-07-11 10:20:44 PM  

mauricecano: Prosecutors and police hiding and making up evidence is the just the natural extension of allowing the police to makeup and fabricate any "prop" evidence to get a criminal to confess. It isn't uprising the mentality leaked over into the court system as well.


It comes down to what our justice system is really about. We're raised to think it's about finding the truth and doing justice, but that isn't how its constituent parts are incentivized. Cops aren't promoted for clearing suspects or taking their time; they're promoted for getting arrests and turning over cases. Prosecutors don't move up in the world by looking at the cases detectives hand them and saying "this is crap, go do it again" or by reviewing past convictions and clearing innocent people; they get prestige by having high conviction rates. The people in our justice system are rewarding for throwing filling our prisons, not for making sure the people they send to them deserve to be there. And that's leaving aside entirely the discussion about police violence, militarization, and legal immunity.
 
2012-07-11 10:22:53 PM  

Karac: In addition, prosecutors did not notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Wouldn't that alone - witholding potentially exculpatory evidence - justify overturning the verdict? Aren't the required to tell defendants if the found something that even might prove them innocent?


Not according to the SC. Look up Henry Conick Sr.
 
2012-07-11 10:28:27 PM  

wildcardjack: Screw evidence.

In Denton, TX, we had a man convicted of murder with NOTHING. No body, no crime scene, no blood stains. NOTHING. And the purported victim had a history of running away and manic depression.


You've got to wonder about the juries that go along with that sort of thing. How the heck can you get to beyond reasonable doubt with no evidence?
 
2012-07-11 10:31:24 PM  

LikeALeafOnTheWind: MugzyBrown:
Unless you're watching "24" and the whole premise is based on the fact it's "real time" and so much shiat happens that could never fit into 24 hours.

Except shiat never happens on 24. Not once was there ever even a 10 minute slow part because Jack is in the john. They dont eat, they dont sleep, and nobody craps. for 24 hours.


Not using the bathroom logically follows from not eating. I've gone 24+ hours without eating or sleeping. I wasn't fighting terrorists at the time but then I'm not a trained counter-terrorism agent.

Just ask any doctor that's been through residency about long hours in high-pressure situations.
 
2012-07-11 10:40:34 PM  

xaks: Too bad our country won't work like that.

It never has, and it never could.


Indeed. It's a fun thought experiment, though.
 
2012-07-12 12:31:19 AM  

thisone: maybe this will budge some of my family members from their stance that the death penalty is okay, even though innocent people have been/ar put to death, because it's only a few innocent people and mostly "bad" people.


A few years ago a friend of mine made that statement, claiming that if the person was innocent chances are the person had a long criminal history and done something else to deserve it. I took him to the state of Texas' own website and showed him that of the previous 100 executions, only 20 or so had any previous criminal record.
 
2012-07-12 12:34:50 AM  

mauricecano: Prosecutors and police hiding and making up evidence is the just the natural extension of allowing the police to makeup and fabricate any "prop" evidence to get a criminal to confess. It isn't uprising the mentality leaked over into the court system as well.


I've never understood how that works, it's ok for the police to lie in order to obtain a confession, but if a suspect or witness lie it's considered obstruction of justice.
 
2012-07-12 12:36:32 AM  

Some 'Splainin' To Do: Magorn: 1) Hair and fiber analysis
2) "paint matching"
3) Fire reconstruction and "burn pattern analysis"
4) Fingerprint Matching
5) DNA matching

Things that are actually science

5) DNA*

Let's not forget to add polygraphs to the junk list.


Yes, polygraphs never, ever, ever help a suspect. If you fail, it just reinforces their suspicions of you, if you pass, it just makes them look harder at you. Never in the history of lie detector usage have the police, upon hearing a suspect passed, said "well, I guess he's innocent, lets start looking for another suspect."
 
2012-07-12 12:56:18 AM  

SN1987a goes boom: Are you saying fingerprints can't be used as evidence?


They can be used for evidence and are used for evidence. They have absolutely no scientific basis for doing so.

Let's start with unverified premise that no two finger prints can be alike and go from there. What is often at a crime scene is by no means an exact replica of the actual finger print. Finger print analysis claims to be able to take a partial and smudged print and turn it into an exact replica of the print found on the person. There is no scientific basis for this claim.

Additionally, how prints are verified and compared is non-uniform from examiner to examiner. How partial prints are treated is non-uniform. There is no scientifically tested standard for fingerprint matching, it's 100% trusted voodoo magic that has no basis in scientific theory.

When you add to the fact that prints are smudged, partial, or both; you end up with a comparison that is understood by a jury as "this guy definitely was there" when the real fact of the case is "the print does not exclude this guy from being there". Those are TWO completely separate things to say. The real analysis is by no means enough to convict someone of a crime.
 
2012-07-12 12:57:20 AM  

MugzyBrown: The Homer Tax: cig-mkr: 6) Solving the crime in an hour

I never understood this gripe. It's a television show. If you're going to show a television show where someone does DNA matching or whatever, you can't have it take two weeks. It's only an hour show. You should afford the TV people at least a modicum of the suspension of disbelief.

No one ever biatches that Winterfell and King's Landing or so far apart no one could *possibly* ride there in 15 minutes...

Unless you're watching "24" and the whole premise is based on the fact it's "real time" and so much shiat happens that could never fit into 24 hours.


Yeah I loved 24, but that whole "events happen in real time" was a crock of shiat from the first episode. Season 1, episode 1 less than 15 minutes in they show Jack leaving home, less than 90 seconds later he's walking in the door at CTU. It tales me that long to drive 9 blocks to the 7-11.
 
2012-07-12 02:23:12 AM  
Does this mean all the episodes of Law & Order I've ever watched represent 14,255 hours of my life I'll never get back???
 
2012-07-12 04:12:37 AM  

Magorn: ProfessorOhki: Magorn: Things people (epecially CSI watchers) think are real science

1) Hair and fiber analysis
2) "paint matching"
3) Fire reconstruction and "burn pattern analysis"

I'm curious about this one. Can't it at least help determine an accidental fire vs arson? I would assume there's a observable difference between, "yup it started at the stove" and "wow, this person had an awful lot of gasoline on their couch."

You would think that but most fire investigation again comes down to the personal feelings of the investigator. It is true that there is some science that can actually help determine how a fire started/spread but most "Arson investigators" have utterly no clue about it, as it is pretty advanced physics.

The case of Todd Willingham in TX, a likely innocent man executed killing his three kids by deliberately setting a house fire, particularly the post conviction appeal effort is a good read, as it pit the findings of an actual professor of physics against the poorly trained "Arson investigator" the prosecution relied on as its key witness.


What happened to the Arson investigator? He should have been jailed for 2nd degree murder for what he did.
 
2012-07-12 04:15:19 AM  

Honest Bender: I've been toying around with a similar idea for a while now. Some way to make the entire legal system actually, factually blind. Find some way to completely mask the identity of the defendant for the entire trial. Never use their name, etc.


Sounds like a brilliant idea that could actually work with modern technology.
(makes sense why this wasn't implemented 200 years ago, but it could work now)
 
2012-07-12 05:57:54 AM  

DubyaHater: We should hurry up and execute all of these inmates.


Look - dragging America, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century isn't easy. They are still shiatting their pants about having to provide the population with health care. Getting rid of the death penalty will happen, of course, but there will be much sandy vagina to be seen along the way. Baby steps.
 
2012-07-12 09:54:56 AM  

Rockstone: Honest Bender: I've been toying around with a similar idea for a while now. Some way to make the entire legal system actually, factually blind. Find some way to completely mask the identity of the defendant for the entire trial. Never use their name, etc.

Sounds like a brilliant idea that could actually work with modern technology.
(makes sense why this wasn't implemented 200 years ago, but it could work now)


Just to play Devil's Advocate here . . .
I know that the personal appearance of the defendents has been mis-used a lot (esp. race & sex-based stereotypes). Let's take that as given.

My problem with the completely blinded version, though, is that you are losing information. If the demographics (esp. age, sex, and weight) can't be mentioned, it makes it tougher for juries to judge (for example) whether the defendent might have legitimately felt threatened, or whether they're physically capable of doing what they've been accused of.

Trials aren't science. They're a bunch of people trying to figure out what's reasonable. Convicting people only if there is scientific evidence on the scale used for the Higg's Boson would result in empty jails, soon followed by a complete breakdown in society when people figured out that the court system simply does not work any more.
 
2012-07-12 09:55:07 AM  

The Onion is prophetic: Wasn't Wayne Williams convicted on mostly hair & fiber analyses?


Exactly. The first thing that came to mind. The fiber matching and the 'expert' testemony about fibers was practically their whole case.

If fact, a couple years ago, several of the original Detectives and officials that worked the case went to court on William's behalf with their main point being that the carpet fiber evidence was unscientific.

I'm absolutely in the tough punishment camp and no fan of convicted serial killer Wayne Williams, but if he was convicted using bullshiat evidence, then I believe firmly that the man should get a new trial.
 
2012-07-12 09:56:48 AM  

Magorn: My feelings? Well having handled three death penalty appeals where it came out AFTER about 20-odd years that the defendants were either deliberately framed or convicted becasue the prosecuters intentionally overlooked and hid evidence of police misconduct, I might be biased on this score. However I think when cops and prosecutors get caught doing this they need to serve a MINIMUM of the time already served by the person they wrongly convicted. I'd charge anyone who pursued a capital case while knowing their case was bogus, with attempted murder.


Agreed, with an under color of authority aggravating circumstance.

Karac: In addition, prosecutors did not notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Wouldn't that alone - witholding potentially exculpatory evidence - justify overturning the verdict? Aren't the required to tell defendants if the found something that even might prove them innocent?


Unfortunately, the system bends over backwards not to protect people from the system.

Karac: I gotta say I agree with the group at the bottom of page 1, a forensic lab should be associated with law enforcement as little as possible. Police should collect evidence, stuck a random ID number on the bag and have it couriered to the lab. The lab looks at it, and sends it back with a report saying it matched samples x, y, and did not match sample z. A fingerprint doesn't change depending on what the owner's name or race is, or whether he is suspected of jaywalking or killing a cop so why should the print technician know those details; at best it would do nothing, at worst it would influence his findings to get the bastard.


Yup. There should be no government crime labs, make it all private.
 
2012-07-12 12:35:23 PM  

Doctor Jan Itor: 7) Polygraph


8) Penile plethysmograph
 
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