Over the last year, the nonprofit investigative newsroom ProPublica has published a series of articles that called into question whether some forensic techniques produce reliable results. One of the techniques questioned is the matching of wear marks along the seams of blue jeans. Now, a leading forensic image analyst and a postdoctoral researcher have published a study finding that the technique produces limited evidence at best.
In 2009, the National Research Council issued a report on forensic analysis in court. It found that few forensic investigative techniques are supported by sufficient science.
When a criminal defendant's fingerprints are at issue, the stakes are high. The person has been accused of a crime, and those fingerprints could theoretically place them at the crime scene or otherwise indicate their involvement. People go to prison in cases where a matching fingerprint is the primary evidence.
The National Registry of Exonerations recently issued its 2018 annual report. One hundred fifty-one people were exonerated in the U.S. last year after having been wrongfully convicted of various crimes ranging from traffic offenses to homicide. Together, the exonerees lost 1,639 years of their freedom.
The case involved South Carolina bank robbery. Witnesses were unable to ID the robber and the bank's surveillance video turned out to be too grainy to help. When the FBI finally arrived at a suspect, the man countered that the robber had been his brother. With only low-quality video to go by, how could investigators tell which brother had committed the crime?
Recently, about 1,400 forensic pathologists, fingerprint examiners and other crime scene investigators from across the country met in San Antonio for the International Association for Identification's annual International Educational Conference. At the top of the agenda was improving the standards for collecting, testing and presenting forensic evidence.