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Don't get convicted by faulty evidence

On the eve of his execution, a death row inmate in another state got a reprieve at the last minute to allow a new inquiry panel to review evidence his defense attorney claims will exonerate him.

While that in and of itself is not particularly rare — condemned prisoners have a long history of receiving stays of execution as the clock runs down — the other point it illustrates is quite worrisome: DNA evidence is not incontrovertible.

When the system breaks down

Neither are those who test for evidence infallible, as was brought to the attention of prosecutors in the northeast several years ago when a laboratory chemist was fired for tampering with evidence in drug cases she tested for the police and prosecutors. Over 21,000 criminal cases had to be dismissed as a result, and the chemist served prison time.

Scientists don't have to have malicious intent for results to still wind up skewed. Technicians subjectively interpret results, and some scientific practices remain controversial yet still make their way into court as evidence against defendants.

One attorney for the Exoneration Project at the Law School for the University of Chicago gave a media interview denouncing faulty evidence used to convict innocent defendants.

He called this type of egregious testing errors and faulty evidence "a huge factor in wrongful convictions." Furthermore, he cited the so-called "impression evidence" on which the courts typically have relied is not so reliable after all.

What constitutes impression evidence?

There are different categories of impression evidence, e.g., bite marks, ballistic comparisons and fingerprints.

The attorney pointed out that forensic odontologists may offer testimony regarding similarities between a victim's bite marks and a mold of a defendant's bite. Yet, there is no "scientific certainty that there is a unique match to certain individuals."

Still, this type of evidence can be enough to send you away to prison — or worse.

Dealing with faulty evidence

How can defendants overcome such evidentiary flaws? By fighting fire with fire, using their own forensic techs to test and refute flawed evidence and testify at trial to the their findings.

Your Kentucky criminal defense attorney can offer advice and guidance in these matters of importance.

Source:, "Here's How Science Can Wrongfully Convict Someone," Danielle DeCourcey, accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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  • Kentucky Justice Association
  • Kentucky Bar Association 1871 Lex Ordo Justicia
  • United States District Court Western District Of Kentucky
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