June 01, 2016

Sua Sponte: A Judge Comments

Two judges with forensics expertise comment on "Mass Forensics Errors."

Hons. Christopher J. Plourd and Ron Reinstein

Download a printable PDF of this article. (The Sua Sponte begins on page two of the article.)

In Bad Hair: The Legal Response to Mass Forensic Errors, Professor Brandon Garrett begins by describing the infamous Santae Tribble case. Fortunately, we have learned a lot since his conviction in 1980, and not just in microscopic hair analysis. It is clear that many forensic witnesses in years past overstated their conclusions and that prosecutors also overstated the experts’ conclusions in their jury arguments. But one caveat is that, in many instances, that was the “science” as it was known at the time. We have learned much since the advent of DNA analysis about where the system went wrong. In most cases, it is unfair to overgeneralize past forensic science testimony as widespread fraudulent forensic science.

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