Forensic science is only science-magic on shows like CSI, where blood drops quickly reveal the patterns of a killer and a fingerprint places someone at a crime scene, even if it’s only half of one, and smudged off the side of a door. The science behind forensics is actually pretty shaky— and in 2009, a comprehensive reportfrom the National Research Council showcased just how bad it can be, noting that a wide range of common forensic techniques haven’t been subject to strong scientific evaluation.
According to the Innocence Project, incorrectly used forensic evidence contributes to nearly half of wrongful convictions. In 2015, the FBI admitted that it gave flawed testimony about hair analysis for over two decades. Even testing for DNA might not be as airtight as it seems. The forensic science community has spent the last decade grappling with the problems inherent to the field, and last month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced new policies to improve standards around forensic science in federal labs.
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