Forensic testing is a major component in many criminal cases in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. Evidence collected at the scene of a crime often undergoes scrutinous testing before professionals draw a conclusion regarding its significance.
The problem lies in the fact that not all scientific tests performed on evidence are accurate and reliable. According to the Innocence Project, 364 people have been released from prison after further testing proved their innocence. Furthermore, 52% of those cases involved the use of misleading, misused or false forensic science.
How does testing lead to erroneous convictions?
When scientific professionals run tests on the evidence provided for a case, several things can go wrong. Lab techs or scientists may make critical mistakes that can alter the outcome of a test. A professional may then report the erroneous findings to the court, which can have a great impact on the outcome of a case. In some cases, a technician or analyst may intentionally ruin or change the numbers in order to alter the results of the test as well.
Are all forensic tests reliable?
New advancements in science and technology have proven certain types of testing to be scientifically invalid. Some tests that have inaccurate and unreliable results include the following:
- Tire mark identification
- Hair follicle comparisons
- Comparative bullet lead analysis
- Shoe print comparisons
- Study of arson, such as burn marks on furniture, glass and wood
People who were convicted as a result of some types of invalid tests may be able to overturn their case on the basis of misleading forensic evidence.