Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Forensic Science: reality v. television

You may have heard of the CSI Effect that is a reference to the phenomenon of popular television shows raising peoples real-world expectations of forensic science and especially crime scene investigation. Sensible people acknowledge that television takes dramatic license with science, but we tend to think that there is at least a reasonable basis for the techniques and procedures shown.

A report recently released by the National Academy of Sciences depicts a forensic science system badly in need of overhaul. From the report, "with the exception of nuclear DNA analysis ... no forensic method has been rigorously shown able to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source."

Hofstra Law School's Prof. DiFonzo has written on the many problems with DNA crime labs. Not the science used, but how the evidence is handled.

Lawyers who work with scientific evidence - used in criminal investigations, products liabiality, medical malpractice, etc. - need to be aware of these issues.

It seems that the forensic science shown on televison may be more fantasy than we thought.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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