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Real CSI: How Reliable is Crime Scene Science?

It seems that everyone is fascinated by television shows about crime scene science. If you’re a fan of these shows, you may assume that, with modern science involved, it’s easy to solve crimes and get a conviction.

However, the reliability of crime scene science in a court case can depend on a number of factors including the methods used to gather and process the evidence, and the validity of the science itself. Often these factors vary greatly over time.

Outdated Science

A great example of the potential impact of the changes in science over time can be seen in the story of Han Tak Lee, a man recently released from prison after serving 24 years for arson and murder. At the time, there was strong scientific evidence that the fire was deliberately set. However, even the prosecutor in Mr. Lee’s case conceded that the science used at the trial has absolutely no value considering current knowledge about fires.

Processing Errors

The Innocence Project has compiled a  list of cases charting where errors in scientific testing have led to wrongful convictions. As noted recently in our post on DUI myths, the validity of crime scene analysis depends on the accuracy of the testing procedures used. If a technician or analyst makes a mistake, or even intentionally changes the results, a person may be wrongly convicted of a crime.

Experience Counts

An experienced criminal lawyer will look at the physical and scientific evidence in a case and determine whether an independent expert should be consulted. Due to potential errors in the gathering or processing of scientific evidence, it may be important to challenge test results in court. It is also important to understand that what is accepted crime scene science today, may be junk science in a few years. Give us a call at (865) 691-2777 or contact us through our website Brown & Roberto, PLLC to set up a free consultation.

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