Forensic problems caused a wrongful conviction in the Michael Morton case.
There is a big difference between civil courts and criminal courts. The obvious fact is one deals with money and the other, the loss of liberty (e.g., jail or prison). The rules of evidence that govern both systems are essentially the same. At least, one would think they should be the same. The reality is that criminal courts have come under large scrutiny for not following the rules of evidence when it comes to the forensic problem of bogus science. The National Academy of Science and The National Institute of Justice were both contracted to perform a comprehensive study on the state of modern forensic science methods allowed in court. They issued a scathing report. Here is the report: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228091.pdf. In her 25 years of trial experience, Mimi has seen these forensic problems firsthand and fights the courts when they don’t follow the rules of evidence.
— The Difference between Criminal and Civil courts
Law enforcement has crossed many lines in their efforts at obtaining convictions. Here is the problem. Their use of “scientific methods” to convict people such as bite mark analysis and arson investigations, like the one used in convicting Michael Morton to over 30 years of prison, are under fire by the nation’s scientific community. How has this happened? The simple answer is that the criminal judges in this country have forsaken the gate keeping role established by rule of law, while the civil courts have done an excellent job of keeping out fake science. Civil turned criminal defense attorney Mike Mosher articulates his shock at how the criminal courts do not follow established law when it comes to allowing in questionable police tactics to convict.
The established law in the United States for admitting forensic evidence is the Daubert standard. The Court in Daubert defined “scientific method” as the process of formulating hypotheses and then conducting experiments to prove or falsify a hypothesis. It sets out five factors in determining the legitimacy of a “scientific” method before the jury can consider it:
1. Whether the theory or technique employed by the expert is generally accepted in the scientific community;
2. Whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication;
3. Whether testing the theory is or will be possible;
4. The known or potential rate of error and whether it is acceptable; and
5. Whether the research is independent of the particular litigation or dependent on an intention to provide the proposed testimony. (In other words, a person cannot create a science just to use in court.)
We need to do more to solve these forensic problems
The purpose of the justice system is to arrive at truth. Truth is impossible when using fake methods to convict a person. As the commentator, Mike Mosher, refers to in the above video, it is alarming that our criminal courts across America have fallen prey to allowing the overzealous whims of law enforcement to dictate evidence, even when such evidence is fake.
Mimi met Mike at the nation’s largest DWI seminar put on by the NACDL and the NCDD in Las Vegas. He has spent a successful career suing pharmaceutical companies in civil courts over false claims to save lives. The low admissibility standard in criminal courts shocked him. Many criminal defense lawyers, such as Mimi, are used to the low standard used in admitting ineligible evidence. The problem is that criminal appellate courts let these forensic problems slide. There are innocence clinics popping up in law schools all across America trying to combat these forensic problems. We must be aware of these atrocities committed in our courts in the name of “tough on crime” and do better to prevent further injustices.
More about Mimi Coffey
When people look for a Top DWI Attorney or Best DWI Attorney, they look for experience, certification, and respect in the legal community. Mimi Coffey is a nationally-renowned trial attorney, board-certified in DWI by the NCDD. She has been practicing for over 24 years and is an author of multiple DWI Defense textbooks. She is also a national and state-wide lecturer on the law.
An El Paso Texas Department of Public Safety forensic analyst faked 22 blood results and the Texas Forensic Commission finds she was negligent. Faking blood results is not mere negligence. It is criminal and can ruin the lives of many. Let’s break this situation down to clarify the issue . . .
What went wrong?
A Texas Department of Public Safety forensic analyst, Ana Lilia Romero, had 22 blood samples to retest. Instead, she did a cut and paste job of the earlier test results. This is criminal misconduct, no mere negligence. Negligence occurs, for example, when you accidentally forget to record the storage room refrigerator temperature because you were in a hurry. Criminal Misconduct is reporting results for 22 tests that you did not perform.
Why not count the first lab results?
Well, protocol required that she retest the 22 blood samples because of equipment failure. Equipment failure is, obviously, a serious issue that can affect the results of a blood test.
Who would actually go so far as to fake lab results?
The general population would tell you that no one would. Many of these same people would also tell you that if anyone ever did, the lab should fire them. Well, this pattern of criminal misconduct exists at the Texas Department of Public Safety. This is not the first time Texas DPS caught an analyst faking results or “dry labbing”. The Department did not fire the previous analyst, nor did they fire Ms. Romero (she resigned). Though accidents do happen, the important thing is to catch the mistake and fix it. Questions arose as to this analyst’s truthfulness when questioned about the incident under oath in a court of law. Texas DPS decided to reassign this analyst to a different lab rather than have him continue to do blood tests in the Texas DPS Garland laboratory.
What should happen after finding misconduct in forensic testing?
When this happens in other states, the district attorney notifies all affected people (tests run by the same analyst). Often, due to the malfeasance and lack of trustworthiness in the analyst’s work, a district attorney will choose to throw out the former tests.
It is a sad day in America because the National Commission on Forensic Science has been terminated. This commission has helped overturn convictions based on faulty forensic science. Further, the commission has been helpful for DUI and Criminal Defense lawyers. The commission helps by exploring minimal qualifications to be able to be an analyst in reporting a forensic result. It further helps in determining minimum requirements to ensure validity in forensic science. The elimination of this commission harms more than helps those accused of a crime, including a DUI. It will also harm DUI and Criminal Defense lawyers. The harm is in having no ability to attack the validity of certain forensic “sciences” used against clients. Today is a very sad day in America.