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Improving The Standards Of Forensic Evidence In Court

US Air Force
Special Agent Tam Reed dusts for fingerprints.

This program originally aired on April 25, 2019 

Ten years ago, the publication of a national report on forensic science systems in the U.S. found some alarming problems that needed to be addressed. The report, "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward," led to the creation of the Iowa State University based "Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence" (CSAFE). 

In this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with two experts about what the lab at ISU has uncovered in the decade since the release of the report, and how CSAFE's research has helped the Innocence Project in cases where faulty forensic evidence led to a wrongful conviction. 

Alicia Carriquiry is the director of CSAFE. In reference to the 2009 report, she says that, "The National Research Council recognized that the analysis of pattern evidence was pretty rife with subjectivity."

Pattern evidence, which includes fingerprints, bullet markings and trajectory, handwriting, and digital evidence, is often times a determining factor in the outcome of many crime cases.

“We have to understand that good science can only lead to more just outcomes, and that critics [of the way forensics have been used in the past] are not pointing fingers, but are really trying to get to the truth; and the search for the truth is not advanced by the use of subjective speculation masquerading as scientific evidence,” says Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project.