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Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Impenetrable Program Transforming How Courts Treat DNA

Jessica Pishko
wired.com
Originally posted November 29, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

But now legal experts, along with Johnson’s advocates, are joining forces to argue to a California court that TrueAllele—the seemingly magic software that helped law enforcement analyze the evidence that tied Johnson to the crimes—should be forced to reveal the code that sent Johnson to prison. This code, they say, is necessary in order to properly evaluate the technology. In fact, they say, justice from an unknown algorithm is no justice at all.

As technology progresses forward, the law lags behind. As John Oliver commented last month, law enforcement and lawyers rarely understand the science behind detective work. Over the years, various types of “junk science” have been discredited. Arson burn patterns, bite marks, hair analysis, and even fingerprints have all been found to be more inaccurate than previously thought. A September 2016 report by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology found that many of the common techniques law enforcement historically rely on lack common standards.

In this climate, DNA evidence has been a modern miracle. DNA remains the gold standard for solving crimes, bolstered by academics, verified scientific studies, and experts around the world. Since the advent of DNA testing, nearly 200 people have been exonerated using newly tested evidence; in some places, courts will only consider exonerations with DNA evidence. Juries, too, have become more trusting of DNA, a response known popularly as the “CSI Effect.” A number of studies suggest that the presence of DNA evidence increases the likelihood of conviction or a plea agreement.

The article is here.
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