Autopsy of a Crime Lab: Exposing the Flaws in Forensics

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Univ of California Press, Mar 23, 2021 - Law - 264 pages

This book exposes the dangerously imperfect forensic evidence that we rely on for criminal convictions.

"That's not my fingerprint, your honor," said the defendant, after FBI experts reported a "100-percent identification." They were wrong. It is shocking how often they are. Autopsy of a Crime Lab is the first book to catalog the sources of error and the faulty science behind a range of well-known forensic evidence, from fingerprints and firearms to forensic algorithms. In this devastating forensic takedown, noted legal expert Brandon L. Garrett poses the questions that should be asked in courtrooms every day: Where are the studies that validate the basic premises of widely accepted techniques such as fingerprinting? How can experts testify with 100 percent certainty abut a fingerprint, when there is no such thing as a 100 percent match? Where is the quality control in the laboratories and at the crime scenes? Should we so readily adopt powerful new technologies like facial recognition software and rapid DNA machines? And why have judges been so reluctant to consider the weaknesses of so many long-accepted methods?

Taking us into the lives of the wrongfully convicted or nearly convicted, into crime labs rocked by scandal, and onto the front lines of promising reform efforts driven by professionals and researchers alike, Autopsy of a Crime Lab illustrates the persistence and perniciousness of shaky science and its well-meaning practitioners.

 

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Contents

Introduction
3
False ID
41
Error Rates
57
Overstatement
76
Qualifications
94
Hidden Bias
108
The Gatekeepers
122
Failed Quality Control
139
Crime Scene Contamination
156
The Rebirth of the Lab
173
Big Data Forensics
182
Fixing Forensics
196
Acknowledgments
207
Notes
215
Index
247
Copyright

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About the author (2021)

Brandon L. Garrett is the L. Neil Williams Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, where he directs the Wilson Center for Science and Justice.  His previous books include Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations, and End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice.

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