Forensic science and wrongful convictions

Authored by: Joëlle Vuille , Christophe Champod

The Routledge International Handbook of Forensic Intelligence and Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138688216
eBook ISBN: 9781315541945
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315541945-11

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Abstract

In the 1990s, forensic science evidence, and forensic DNA analysis in particular, began being used to exonerate people who had been convicted of crimes they had not committed. This opened up the field of research into wrongful convictions in ways that had been unknown until then, and shed new light on the causes of erroneous verdicts.Ironically, the use of forensic science evidence to exonerate the innocent also helped identify forensic science evidence itself as an important factor in the conviction of the innocent. In this chapter, we take a critical look at forensic science as a contributor to wrongful convictions but also as a vehicle to obtain exonerations. We argue that forensic science evidence can be distorted in both enterprises, and that it is the forensic practitioner’s professional responsibility to render her conclusions in ways that preclude their manipulation by parties, fact-finders and advocates. Finally, we make recommendations that the forensic community would be well advised to implement soon if they want to avoid further criticism and develop different practices in the future.

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