Long-time Ethics Alarms commenter Michael R. delivers another of his provocative and informative Comments of the Day, this time on the festering scandal that is prosecutor misconduct and abuses of due process in our criminal justice system. This kind of commentary justifies the existence of Ethics Alarms, in my view, regardless of what I may write here. It is a virtual template for what makes a Comment of the Day.
Here is Michael R’s COTD on the post, “KABOOM! Head Exploded, Can’t Write, Don’t Need To: The FBI Forensic Scandal”…
There has been a war in forensic science between what I call the “scientist group” and the “prosecutor/police” group. This has led to the travesty that we call forensic evidence in the criminal justice system.
If you read the Office of the Inspector General Report below, you will see that the evidence in the Oklahoma City Bombing was highly fabricated to implicate Terry Nichols, at least. It also should be noted that this report was available before the trial, but was disallowed by the judge, who ruled that this case was too important to be tried on the facts (the defense was not allowed to even mention that this report existed, much less talk about what was in it).
In addition to the OIG report we also have compositional bullet lead analysis:
Now this. Why should I respect the government, its officers, and its judges who allow such things to happen? It isn’t just the FBI, it is West Virginia (state police), Houston (apparently everyone in their crime lab, ever based on the number of scandals), Oklahoma City, Massachussetts, NYPD… This is commonplace. In all these cases, the prosecutors knew what was going on, the judges knew what was going on, but no one said or did anything until a whistleblower came forward. When the scandal is revealed, none of the guilty parties is ever punished, but the whistleblowers sure are.
The root of this problem is the prosecutor and police culture that is allowed to influence the forensics labs. The insistence of the use of their bizarre form of inductive reasoning leads to horrible scenarios and untold wrongful convictions. The idea that “this person did it” followed by the “how can I twist the evidence to prove they did it” seems to be the standard operating procedure in law enforcement.
The crime labs need to be decoupled from this ‘legal’ culture. They need to be independent and need to be equally available to the prosecutor AND defense. That’s right. The defense attorneys need to have the ability to run forensic tests on the evidence and have full access to all crime lab findings, just like the prosecution does. The official forensic experts need to be available to testify for BOTH sides. Until then, you will only get a perversion of justice. http://www.iowaiai.org/bad_science.html