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Old 13th February 2012, 08:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Foresic Science UK & US

New Scientist this week is discussing the UK Government's closure of it's Forensic Science service:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/...-unproven.html



But, in the magazine itself they are also discussing the pressure that lab analysts in the U.S. come under because in 38 states crime labs are under police or prosecution control rather than being an independent service.

They highlight the case of Greg Taylor who spent 17 in prison for murder he didn't commit. A panel of three judges ordered his release in 2010 after concluding that blood found in his SUV wasn't blood at all.

As a result the North Carolina state lab was investigated and found to have withheld or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16 year period - three of which resulted in executions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/us/18innocent.html

I'm surprised we haven't heard more about this worldwide. Did it make the headlines in the States?
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Old 13th February 2012, 10:15 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Foresic Science UK & US

I also read the article this week, and I was quite amazed at the pressure that forensic teams can be under, particularly the pressure by police that want evidence to point to a certain outcome. The fact that any of the 365 scientists surveyed said they sometimes felt pressurised to produce a particular result is very worrying.

There was an article (in new scientist) several months ago about how DNA evidence is debatable, in that when partial DNA is recovered from a scene different labs came up with different levels of probability for the partial DNA pointing to a particular suspect, to the point where some would have said the evidence pointing to the suspect being present at the scene and others that he/she wasn't.

We are lead to believe that DNA evidence is irrevertable, but it seems that isn't entirely true, and there is still room for interpretation of the results.
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Old 15th February 2012, 01:10 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Foresic Science UK & US

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonbat View Post
We are lead to believe that DNA evidence is irrevertable, but it seems that isn't entirely true, and there is still room for interpretation of the results.
Law enforcement agencies and governments have pushed the line that DNA evidence is almost incontrovertible and give odds in the millions to 1, even though some scientists have said all along that it's nothing like as certain (even supposing thorough and impartial testing). That view is simply ignored because DNA has become such an important tool in the fight against crime.

As for pressurising testers, I don't think that having a testing centre in or outside direct government control makes much difference, pressure can be brought to bear in either case if the authorities so wish.
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Old 15th February 2012, 08:40 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Foresic Science UK & US

Ah, but if it is within government control there should at least be a semblance of impartiality.
If it were comercially owned then you could expect it to be run like a business and the more comercially viable results would likely be reached.- or at leats that is what the fearmongers predict.

p.s. I thought irrevertable was the wrong word, incontrovertible, thx
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Old 15th February 2012, 05:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Foresic Science UK & US

If it's within government control the pressure would be to keep their jobs, if outside then the pressure is to keep the contract. Perhaps there should be an independent inspectorate (unless there already is such a thing).

I'm sure that most convictions based on DNA evidence are safe but I'm equally convinced that it's not as foolproof as maintained, which is why no conviction should be based solely on DNA evidence and why I'm against DNA samples being routinely added to the DNA database without consent (unless convicted of a crime).
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