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The myth of fingerprinting

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 12:29:13 PM MST

In Augut's Popular Mechanics, Brad Reagan tackles the "shaky science behind forensics," the perfect companion piece to the National Academy of Sciences report that found most of criminal forensics - fingerprinting, ballistics, handwriting analysis - have little or no scientific basis.

Read it. Recall that the conservative-dominated SCOTUS decided that convicts have no right to test DNA from their police case files. Remember Arnold Melnikoff and what his "testimony" did for the reputation of the Montana Crime Lab. And realize that the head of the Montana Crime Lab has neither experience in forensics nor a science background.

So...what is the Montana Crime Lab doing to ensure that Montana Crime Lab forensics are science-based?

Jay Stevens :: The myth of fingerprinting
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The Alter of Science (0.00 / 0)
25 years from now, you'll be talking about the silliness of using DNA in forensics compared to [insert newest fad here].  

Forensics, a subset of justice, seeks truth.  Science operates in probabilities and can never make statements of truth.  They are incompatible, but we do the best we can with an inherently imperfect system.

Oh, how wise of you (0.00 / 0)
Though it does seem you have forgotten about that "beyond a reasonable doubt" thingy.

You've watched too much CSI.  Forensics does not seek "truth".  Forensics seeks evidence of probability.  That and science are perfectly compatible to the degree that the same evidence can lead to the same result over and over (which was kinda the point of the NAS report.)

[ Parent ]
er... (0.00 / 0)
Where to begin with this? Actually, I'm quite stumped by this. I mean...you obviously don't know what "science" is...or "forensics"...or "justice."

Your statement claiming that forensics is "a subset of justice" is confusing. It doesn't make sense. You do know that the meaning of forensics is "the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems," right? That is, forensics are a kind of science...only most forensics aren't actually "science-based," which means their accuracy haven't been verified through rigorous study and experimentation. That is, there's no evidence that doing, say, hair sample analysis actually works -- and much to infer that's it's hokum, akin to using astrological charts or a crystal ball to establish guilt. (See, "Melnikoff, Arnold.")

I think we could both agree that it's in the best interest of the community, the state, and the individual that we use forensics that are as accurate as possible. Right now, that's DNA testing. And in 25 years, if there's a more accurate way of connecting physical evidence to a suspect than DNA testing, h*ll yeah, I'll be all for it.

[ Parent ]

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