A jailhouse informant is rarely someone who just wants to help. Jails and prisons have a strong anti-snitching culture, so passing along information to prosecutors is a choice that could get you in serious trouble. People don't inform on other prisoners to be solid citizens; they do it to get a break on their sentences.
Polygraph tests, often called "lie-detector tests," are not admissible as evidence in the courts. This is because they have never been shown to produce reliable proof of whether the subject is lying.
We've discussed on this blog how genealogy databases like GEDmatch warehouse the DNA results of huge numbers of people who have taken part in genetic testing for genealogy purposes.
Forensic In February 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a ground-breaking report called "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States, A Path Forward." Researchers at NAS had looked at the state of forensic science in the U.S. and found serious problems.
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland that police and prosecutors are legally bound to turn over so-called "exculpatory" evidence to the defense before trial. Exculpatory evidence is most anything favorable to the defense. It can be evidence that the defendant is innocent, that someone else could be guilty, or that there were mitigating circumstances. Or, it can cast doubt on the reliability of prosecution witnesses.
Matthew C. was charged with possessing 92 grams of heroin after a baggie full of white powder was discovered in his van. The powder allegedly tested positive for heroin in a field test. In reality, it was laundry detergent.
If you've been reading our blog, you know that many common forensic evidence techniques have been called into serious question by scientists. Yet police, prosecutors and judges continue to use or allow these techniques to be used. Sometimes, it seems as if they are used simply because they have been in use for so long. That isn't sound policy.
"Rapid DNA" machines are a new phenomenon in criminal justice. Able to process a DNA sample in just 90 minutes, they're often called "the magic box." The machines are small enough to be used by police departments. Until now, DNA testing has been performed exclusively by forensic scientists in neutral, accredited labs.
"How many cases of innocent people being wrongly convicted have to occur before people realize that there's a very broad spectrum of forensic science?" asks U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, a former member of the National Commission on Forensic Science.
The basic science behind DNA testing is sound enough. Each individual has DNA that varies as much as one person varies from another. With the right technology, we should be able to compare a DNA sample found at a crime scene with one taken from a suspect.