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Evaluating and Challenging Forensic Identification Evidence
By William A. Tobin,William C. Thompson
Television dramas like the popular “CSI” series have highlighted the importance of forensic science in criminal investigations. These programs show forensic scientists solving crimes with unerring accuracy by examining and comparing bloodstains, hairs, bullets, glass fragments, handwriting, toolmarks, latent prints and other items of physical evidence. Ironically, while television has been glorifying crime labs, there has been growing skepticism among real scientists about the claims that forensic scientists have been making in court.1 The conclusions they state so confidently on television and in real courtrooms often cannot withstand critical scrutiny. A recent article in the prominent journal Science argued that the “forensic identification sciences” are largely “underresearched and oversold” and called for major new efforts to test and validate claims that forensic scientists have routinely been making in courtroom testimony.2
For criminal defense lawyers, these developments are bo
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