Tuesday, June 22, 2010

True Crime Tuesday - Justice On Overload

Forget those crime shows like CSI that pretend to show what forensic crime detection is all about. The real story is less glamorous and a bit more complex, thanks in part to a Supreme Court decision that allows lab techs to be cross examined by defendants accused of a crime (sixth amendment right to confront one's accuser).

I sort of like that idea, even though it's inconvenient and drives up the cost of fighting crime. I think our justice system is better served if the analysts who study forensic evidence get out of the lab and into the courtroom. And it should help prevent the rare but costly mistakes that have resulted when shoddy forensic lab work or mischief comes to light (lab scandals in Detroit and San Francisco, for instance resulted in hundreds of court cases being tossed).

You can go directly to the video on the website of www.slate.com, at this link: Justice On Overload

To learn more about why San Francisco may be forced to drop hundreds of cases against accused drug dealers, check out this link:

San Francisco Crime Lab Scandal

or this one:

DA Harris Seeks to Restore Integrity

1 comment:

Lee Lofland said...

I have to respectfully disagree. I think testifying in court on a routine basis is a waste of the scientists time, time that could be better spent clearing the backlog of cases. This is especially true with drug cases since they make up approximately 85% of all forensic lab testing. There's a better chance for error when the labs get behind and then rush to meet court dates.

Sure, there are bad apples in every bunch, and if a particular scientist's exam appears to be faulty then they should be summoned to testify. The certificate of analysis submitted by the techs should be all that's needed to satisfy the court under normal circumstances.

By the way, the lab in video is one I used for years while working as a detective/police officer. The employees there are first class.