Forensic Science Proves Mostly Reliable

Posted on November 4, 2015 by


Forensic science is defined as any branch of science, including  physics, biology, or chemistry, that is used as proof or evidence in a court of law. Forensic scientists must collect, preserve, and analyze the data.  While some scientists are out at the crime scene, others analyze the data in a larger laboratory. The data collection and the analysis are done by humans and computers alike, leaving some to question the reliability of the science.

Trials of drug dealers, murderers, and even mob bosses are sometimes  lost by the prosecution due to the lack of reliable hard evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA. Scientists say that, with any science, there are mistakes that will be made.

“Forensic science is reliable to a point, but one can only expect mistakes to be made when the majority of the work is done by people, who can make mistakes,” retired physics teacher Ann Bolek said.

There are many examples of how evidence has been reviewed and proven to be wrong or inconclusive. One of the prime examples is the case of Anthony Hinton, a man who was accused of murdering two fast-food managers. He was sent to jail when he was twenty-nine.  He has since been released after a retrial at the age of fifty-eight after nearly thirty years of prison time on Death Row.

Hinton was kept in prison for nearly three decades for a crime he didn’t commit, something that forensic evidence could have easily proven, had the technology been available at the time.

“All they [the prosecution] had to do was test the gun,” Hinton said.

In 2014, when a new appeal was ordered for Hinton, forensic experts tested the gun that he supposedly used in the killings and found that the gun did not match the killing, proving that Hinton was innocent. If the criminal justice system made one mistake on something as easily tested as ballistics from a gun, then what other mistakes could have been made with much harder to detect items, such as DNA or traditional fingerprints.

For generations, people have believed that fingerprints are unique to one, specific individual, but this has never been proven. How can someone be convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, or death without the necessary cold, hard facts needed for a conviction?

“Yes, of course, Forensic Science is reliable, when it comes to DNA fingerprinting and DNA analysis, but it may get a little sketchy when you start edging towards things not based entirely on science, such as hand-writing analysis,” biology teacher Karen Favata said.

Scientists have developed a new version of traditional fingerprinting, in which they no longer look for shapes specific only to someone’s fingerprint.  Now they analyze each element of the DNA on a specific individual’s finger.  This increases the reliability of the information. The advancement of technology has allowed for Forensic Science to be more reliable.

“Though they are reliable, they are only reliable due to the technological advances that began in the mid-nineties, initiated by the infamous trial of O.J. Simpson,” Favata said.

There is a publicly-funded organization known as the Innocence Project.  Their mission is to fund the retrial for inmates who can give sufficient evidence supporting their innocence. Throughout the United States, over three hundred and thirty wrongly-convicted past inmates have been exonerated by retrial with the use of DNA evidence.

Modern Forensic Science is the most reliable evidence used in a court of law.

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