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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Junk Science on Trial

Jordan Smith
The Intercept
Originally posted May 6 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Expert Infallibility?

The Supreme Court's opinion makes little sense if you consider it critically. Under the court's reasoning, a conviction could be overturned if, for example, an eyewitness to a crime later realized he was wrong about what he saw. But if an expert who testified that DNA evidence belonged to one person later realized that the DNA belonged to someone else, nothing could be done to remedy that error, even if it was responsible for a conviction.

In the wake of that opinion, and with Richards's case firmly in mind, lawyers from across the state asked for a change in law -- one that would make it clear that a conviction can be overturned when experts recant their prior testimony as a result of scientific or technological advances.

Known as a junk science statute, the Bill Richards Bill changed the state penal code to address problematic forensic practices in individual criminal cases. Faulty forensics have been implicated in nearly half of all DNA exonerations, according to the Innocence Project, and in roughly 23 percent of all wrongful convictions, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. California's bill, which passed with bipartisan support, is only the second such statute in the country (following one in Texas), and its passage propelled the Richards case back to the Supreme Court for further consideration.

The article is here.