How science may just end up killing crime

1983. Forensic scientist Steve Cordiner's first homicide.

He arrives in a Lower Hutt house to find a woman dead, her head bashed in, blood everywhere.

Cordiner opens a plastic sewing box for a "notebook, my pens, my rulers, some chemicals to do some presumptive tests of blood, and that was about it".

He uses those to study "the patterns of blood stains on the wall, to give an opinion as to the minimum number of blows that must have occurred, from where the blood was and how it was distributed".

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Source: Stuff.co.nz

Most Forensic Science Is Bogus. Will New Federal Rules Help?

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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Source: Gizmodo

Source: Gizmodo

A Popular Algorithm Is No Better at Predicting Crimes Than Random People

In February 2013, Eric Loomis was found driving a car that had been used in a shooting. He was arrested, and pleaded guilty to eluding an officer. In determining his sentence, a judge looked not just to his criminal record, but also to a score assigned by a tool called COMPAS.

Developed by a private company called Equivant (formerly Northpointe), COMPAS—or the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions—purports to predict a defendant’s risk of committing another crime. It works through a proprietary algorithm that considers some of the answers to a 137-item questionnaire.

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Source: The Atlantic

Source: The Atlantic