When attorneys present evidence to the court during criminal proceedings, people believe that the test results are valid, reliable and trustworthy. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Inaccuracies in courtroom evidence can lead to wrongful criminal convictions.
According to the Innocence Project, 364 people have been released from prison after further DNA testing conducted in their case proved their innocence. Of this number, 52% of the cases involved misapplied forensic science testing. Misleading and erroneous results stemming from forensic science testing of evidence were involved in 24% of wrongful convictions across the country.
What is forensic scientific testing?
Once investigators collect evidence at the site of a crime, forensic scientists and laboratory technicians perform a number of tests in an attempt to determine what happened at the crime scene. While some evidence and testing can help point to the perpetrator, misguided tests and processes can mislead law enforcement and actually hinder the case.
Are the tests accurate?
Over time, advancements in science have shown some tests to be inaccurate and these tests are no longer admissible as evidence in a court case. However, some were convicted of a crime based on the use of this inaccurate evidence. Other issues regarding evidence can also lead to a wrongful conviction. These include the following:
- Microscopic hair follicle analysis
- Comparative bullet lead analysis
- Tire mark or shoe mark comparisons
- Wood, glass and furniture analysis in arson cases
Although forensic analysis can make mistakes through human error, oversight and improperly conducted tests, the inaccurate results can impact another person’s life. The scientist responsible for communicating test results to the judge or jury may also misrepresent the data, skewing it one way or the other. Botched, erroneous and tampered evidence is a major issue in many wrongful convictions throughout the country.