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Opinion: forensic evidence flawed at many levels

So, what’s the truth generally about forensic evidence submitted by the prosecution at a criminal trial in North Carolina or elsewhere? Is it sacrosanct because scientifically derived? Is there something inviolable about it because it resulted from laboratory analysis?

Or, conversely, is it only as good as the processes that surround it and marked by the fact that humans -- even certified analysts wearing white coats -- routinely make errors?

As reported in a recent article authored by Slate Magazine, there is a decided dichotomy attaching to the field of forensic evidence. Unquestionably, there is an aura of infallibility about it in the public’s mind, with juries being readily influenced by findings delivered at trial by forensic “experts.” On the other hand, what are we to make of the seemingly constant opening of prison doors for inmates who spent years behind bars owing to DNA and other forensic evidence that ultimately turned out to be flawed?

Slate’s take -- which is one that seems well supported by the many chronicled mistakes that have eventually resulted in exoneration for wrongfully convicted prisoners -- is that the field of forensic science as it applies to criminal law is laced with flaws and troubling questions.

Slate calls the parade of wrongfully locked up innocents “profoundly disturbing” and calls for dramatic changes in the science -- too often the pseudoscience -- that features centrally in their convictions.

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows well that all evidence introduced by criminal authorities is susceptible of error and needs to be exactingly probed for accuracy. A proven defense lawyer will ensure that every piece of evidence intended to incriminate a client through use at trial or in plea discussions passes the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.

Persons charged with criminal offenses have rights. An aggressive and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will ensure that those rights are fully protected.

Source: Slate Magazine, “Forensic science isn’t science,” Mark Joseph Stern, June 11, 2014

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