As an Idaho resident (or American living anywhere else in the country), should you harbor any concerns when you occasionally come across stories discussing the incarceration of an individual following his or her conviction on a criminal charge obtained largely through a forensic expert’s trial testimony?
Maybe your long exposure to crime-based dramas emphasizing the supposed infallibility and unerring accuracy of DNA-based and other types of “scientific” evidence leads you to conclude that when a highly trained lab technician speaks, it’s likely truth that you’re hearing.
Many commentators who address forensic-evidence issues these days — including, certainly, blogger and author Michelle Malkin — argue that, if you’re quickly inclined to disregard any questioning concerning the validity attached to forensic science (especially its application in criminal law matters), you might want to rethink your assumptions.
And here’s why: a deluge of disturbing and confirmed stories regarding material taint linked with forensic evidence used to criminally convict defendants on sex-crime charges and other offenses calls into question the accuracy and general validity of what Malkin disparagingly calls “junk science.”
Obviously, DNA evidence has proved to be accurate and dispositive in many criminal matters. Nonetheless, stories from across the country — several which Malkin relates in a recent article she penned for the National Review — have revealed shocking injustices and even large-scale fraud that have resulted from a too-ready reliance on experts’ DNA-related testimony.
Malkin views it as akin to a national tragedy when material forensic errors and shortcomings are largely kept under wraps. She says that, “Secrecy about the crime-lab crisis is a toxic recipe for more wrongful convictions.”
The antidote to that crisis, she states, is uncompromised public scrutiny of criminal laboratories, prompt disclosure and widespread transparency concerning errors, and material consequences “for forensic fraudsters and fakers.”