Forensic Lab Mistakes

Whenever you watch a television crime drama, the results sent back from forensic labs are always taken as irrefutable. In the news, many criminal cases seem to come to a close after a DNA sample connects the suspect to the scene of the crime. It truly does seem that forensic labs can do no wrong. But, logically, this cannot always be the case.

2015 Innocence Project Study

An organization based in New York named the Innocence Project teamed up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to review hundreds of federal cases that involved hair sample analyses submitted as evidence. Each case was dated before 2000, so forensic technology was still largely in development. The FBI and the Innocence Project determined that 95% of all cases that they reviewed had grossly overstated the accuracy of “irrefutable” hair sample matches. The study did not review evidence based on bite-mark samples, clothing fibers, tire tracks, etc., which may be even less reliable than a hair sample match.

Questioning Convictions Based on Forensic Evidence

There is no doubt that forensic lab procedures have improved since the last millennium’s close, but by how much is not known. If 95% of hair sample analyses were questionable 15 years ago, how many are reliable now? 50%? 75%? What percentage would indicate an acceptable margin of error?

The trouble of unreliable forensic samples is magnified tenfold when considering that in-depth forensic testing is usually only used when the stakes are high. Someone accused of simple assault probably will not have to worry about a science lab reviewing hair samples, but someone accused of murder might. When a forensic lab gets the data wrong but presents it as solid scientific evidence, they might be sentencing someone to life imprisonment. There have even been cases where inmates on death row were released “last minute” due to newly-reviewed samples that exonerated their name.

If you or a loved one have been convicted of a crime based on forensic laboratory evidence, no matter how long ago the case concluded, you might be able to have it appealed and clear your name. Contact Brockton D. Hunter P.A. and our Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys today to learn more about your rights and how to uphold them.