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Faulty forensic evidence
By Michele Nethercott
Indigent Defense columns.
The ever-increasing numbers of DNA based exonerations that have occurred
over the last decade present a historically unparalleled opportunity to
analyze the causes of wrongful convictions. Although the law
enforcement community and the courts bear the heaviest responsibility
for convictions driven by police and prosecutorial misconduct, a
substantial number of these cases involved faulty forensic evidence that
should have been exposed and vigorously challenged by the defense. In
the overwhelming majority of these innocence cases the defense counsel
performance was dismal. This discomforting truth requires action by the
defense bar because we cannot simply assume that the problem of bad
forensic evidence has been solved by the advent of DNA testing. Whether
unreliable scientific evidence is the product of incompetence, malice or
indifference there is every reason to believe that it will be with us
for the foreseeable future.
Prosecutors have at their dispos
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