Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Forensic standards needed

From an LA Times editorial:
According to a nationally respected fire engineer, the so-called scientific evidence used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham of setting a blaze that killed his three daughters in 1995 was not scientific at all. ...

Willingham's case is heartbreaking: He lost his children to fire and his wife to divorce, spent 12 years in prison and died still protesting his innocence. ...

In 2006, Congress charged the National Academy of Sciences with studying the application of forensic science in the U.S. judicial system. Its findings, released last year, are grim. Almost every branch of forensics but DNA testing -- hair and fiber analysis, arson investigations, comparisons of bite marks -- lacks the extensive scientific research and established standards to be used in court conclusively...

In February, the science academy issued a report calling for Congress to create a national institute of forensic science, and there is more than enough evidence that one is desperately needed.
It is not widely realized, but the psychologists and other shrinks who testify in family court are subject to the same standards for scientific evidence as the fingerprint, fiber, DNA, and arson experts. They are supposed to be, anyway.

Every day in family court, there are heartbreaking cases of parents losing their children to unscientific evidence from court-appointed (so-called) experts. In most cases, these evaluators do not apply any scientific evidence at all, and are just applying their personal prejudices.

The LA Times is right that we need better standards for expert testimony.


Texas Moratorium Network said...

Sign the petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed and on February 17, 2004, Texas executed an innocent man.

We plan to deliver the petition at the 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24 in Austin at the Texas Capitol.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Texas for several years and I can tell you first hand, the state believes everyone is a criminal. Everyone is plotting against them. The fines are shockingly high for any little thing. They thrive off people protesting their laws as they feel they are fighting the Yankee Commie hoards off like the Alamo. Seriously, it's that bad. Even after the state was forced to release several men from prison for DNA evidence (in one county alone) they still acted as if it was those damned Yankees telling them what to do. Seriously, its that pathetic. Sad thing is, is that Texas has a lot to offer, but they ruin it with their Police State. The people who were born there are used to it and know nothing different. So, they are totally in favor of it and completely brainwashed.

I am in favor of any measure that will change Texas death penalty laws.