February 25th, 2009
03:01 PM ET

Forget what you've seen on CSI...

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences finds that so-called forensic science needs a big fat overhaul. According to some of the country’s top doctors, engineers and researchers, the evidence we’ve used to convict the 1.6 million Americans currently in prison is unreliable, at best.

•Fingerprint analysis •shoeprint evidence •blood spatter •toxicology •drug testing •handwriting samples •tool marks •bite marks •hair sampling

And that’s the short list. The full list is too long for this post. Suffice it to say, the techniques employed to catch and convict criminals cannot be trusted.

Forget what you’ve seen on CSI; that’s fiction. Here are the facts: What we call forensic “science” is not science. It was not developed by scientists in lab coats with test tubes and lots of letters after their names. The practice of forensics developed in the context of law enforcement. There is an inherent bias. And it has never been subject to the kind of peer review and scientific rigor to which real scientists must adhere.

Of course there are lots of talented and dedicated people in the forensic science community, but they are under funded and under pressure to convict. And inconsistent practices in federal, state, and local agencies plague the profession as a whole. The quality of forensic science varies too greatly for a system that is ultimately about life, liberty and sometimes even death.

What we need is a new and independent entity, with no ties to the past dysfunctions of the forensic science community, and with the authority and resources to implement a fresh agenda designed to prevent the miscarriage of justice. A National Institute of Forensic Science. Justice requires nothing less.

Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Bill Smith

    AC: F-22 cost. You must realize that it is too late to build your weapon systems after you are attacked. This F22 gives our fighter pilots a distinct advantage against a potential enemy. And we have plenty of potenteial enemies. Cutting this program for jobs is like comparing apples and oranges. The key is to not put our President in a black mail situation, where one of our enemies has an upper hand with military power, to force the U.S. to bend to their demands. It is a fabulous weapon system. Take it from a former Fighter Pilot.
    Thank you, Bill Smith

    February 25, 2009 at 11:45 pm |
  2. Juan

    How about the convicted criminals be kept in jail until the law abiding citizens get a "bailout", then we address the "bailout of jailed citizens?"

    February 25, 2009 at 11:29 pm |
  3. Dephlogisticated Sinovium

    I have never heard of Milgram's "Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View." I'll have to check my local library and see if they have the title in stock. It seems like it would be a very interesting read. Thanks for the suggestion, Clay.

    February 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  4. clay - palm bay, fl

    It’s interesting to see this topic being posted here after this dirty laundry has already been exposed for quite some time. Maybe reading, or re-reading of, Stanley Milgram’s book. “Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View,” may provide an understanding why so many are willing to accept what those in authority, or those that look like they are in authority (actors/actresses), have to say. The bigger question is, how long has the judicial know about this and why did they take the necessary corrective actions.

    February 25, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    Seems like a good defense attorney would be "educating" the jury about just how unreliable the evidence is scientifically – especially in cases where the death penalty is being sought. The jury should know just how solid the evidence is or isn't.

    February 25, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  6. Neo

    In agreement. Forensic science and law enforment need to be modernized. That whole system is corrupt. Look forward to knowing more about a National Institute of Forensic Science.

    February 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  7. GF, Los Angeles

    Of course techniques used on CSI aren't real – it's a fictional TV show! On the otherhand, New Detectives and Forensic Files that profile real cases that are solved through forensics – are those not real? If so does that mean we're suppose to let murderers out of jail because most may have been imprisoned using forensics?

    February 25, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  8. Vaughn Samuel - Chicago

    Oh No! You dont say! y'all mean that the science that got all them brothas is the pen aint reliable? My cousin has been saying he was innocent of the crime for which he is serving 25 to life but we all thot is was a bunch of bull. how do you explain the DNA evidence? and all the forensics they used to convict him. He kept saying he was framed because he was black. Now I dont know anymore. I had always known cousin Jamal was impotent but then they said they found semen with his DNA in the dead woman. Jamal Couldnt even get it up with Viagra and Cialis taken together. Damn, maybe he was right!

    February 25, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  9. Dave Stein

    On the opposite end of the prior poster, I never could stand watching CSI because I knew so much of it was utterly ridiculous. Although the practices are not subject to review, they cannot all be lumped into the same level of accuracy. I would think that fingerprint analysis is much more accurate than going off shoeprint evidence. Also, most of the time many different techniques are used at once which ups the power of this "science." I would still agree though that it needs more accountability as a whole.

    February 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  10. Alex

    Exactly what expertise does Jami Floyd possess to make such bold and ludicrous statements? I challenge Jami to take each and every forensic test that is conducted (not the ones on TV either) and prove to everyone that those test are inaccurate, incorrect as well as unreliable. Sounds to me like Floyd has an ax to grind and thus her statements are misleading, inaccurate and inherently unreliable. The ball is in your court Jami to produce the proof rather than sell junk news and make your paycheck fatter!

    February 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  11. Dephlogisticated Sinovium

    I really enjoy the CSI shows and other similar series, but I was always skeptical of the techniques used. I never really believed they could be so accurate. By the way, I really enjoyed the facebook activity that was incorparated yesterday with the president's speech. I just signed up for facebook and I look forward to similar activities in the future.

    February 25, 2009 at 3:12 pm |

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