Plugging Holes in the Science of Forensics

From The New York Times:

Forensic-500 It was time, the panel of experts said, to put more science in forensic science. A report in February by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences found “serious problems” with much of the work performed by crime laboratories in the United States. Recent incidents of faulty evidence analysis — including the case of an Oregon lawyer who was arrested by the F.B.I. after the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings based on fingerprint identification that turned out to be wrong — were just high-profile examples of wider deficiencies, the committee said. Crime labs were overworked, there were few certification programs for investigators and technicians, and the entire field suffered from a lack of oversight.

But perhaps the most damning conclusion was that many forensic disciplines — including analysis of fingerprints, bite marks and the striations and indentations left by a pry bar or a gun’s firing mechanism — were not grounded in the kind of rigorous, peer-reviewed research that is the hallmark of classic science. DNA analysis was an exception, the report noted, in that it had been studied extensively. But many other investigative tests, the report said, “have never been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny.”

More here.