The Legal Investigator The Legal Investigator, Vol. 36, Issue 4 : Page 4

forensics focus by Kathleen Cunningham evidence is “scientific,” it is valid and correct. It can be difficult, but certainly not impossible for the defense to impeach forensic evidence and forensic experts. Crime laboratories are loosely regulated and a defense investigator can use this information to his client’s advantage. Crime lab technicians come with widely varying levels of education and skill. Forensic programs are springing up all over the country, perhaps in response to the popularity of forensic television shows. The quality of forensic education is not tightly regulated and graduates of some of these programs may be, in fact, poorly or inadequately trained. Advances in medicine, forensics and technology are evolving and new and more accurate information is learned every day. For example, there have been a number of convictions for Shaken Baby Syndrome based on postmortem findings of retinal hemorrhages. As more is learned about the syndrome, these conclusions have been successfully called into question. Crime labs are often understaffed and have a huge backlog of cases. Limited budgetary resources put 6 further constraints on their ability to handle their caseloads. This can increase the number of both human and technical errors that can occur, rendering the evidence questionable to say the least. A simple labeling error has the power to send the wrong person to death row. Mistakes are made, both accidentally and even intentionally. Even the venerated FBI lab has come under attack. Barry Fisher of the Forensic Science Consortium stated that, “In many places, crime labs are the bastard stepchildren of public safety.” Innocence projects around the country are questioning forensic evidence, achieving re-analysis of existing evidence and discrediting forensic results. Wrongful convictions based on forensic evidence can occur for various reasons. Crime lab errors include misinterpretation of results, evidence suppression, falsification of reports, specimen contamination, statistical exaggeration, labeling errors and test equipment malfunction. The list of possibilities is endless. U.S. District Judge Nancy Gerter advises that defense the legal investigator

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