There have been several programs looking at exoneration of people previously convicted of crimes. This includes The Innocence Project, currently boasting 325 DNA exonerations, and a project of the University of Michigan Law School that works on cases in which DNA is unavailable. The latter project has exonerated 1,553 individuals when we recorded this podcast. As it turns out, many of these people were convicted based on forensic science that was later proved to not be scientifically valid. So, what particular forensic disciplines are actually valid in the criminal justice system?
In this episode of Digital Detectives, Sharon Nelson and John Simek interview Judge David Waxse about the 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the relationship between bad science and wrongful convictions, and how to improve the use of forensic science in the criminal justice system. The NAS report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (PDF), found that with the exception of DNA, no forms of forensic science comply with scientific methodology. Waxse discusses the jury’s confidence in unproven science experts and witness testimony and the resulting wrongful convictions. He explains why people are just now becoming concerned with the 2009 report and discusses why The Willingham Case is relevant. Waxse plans to hold a symposium in April 2015 at Northwestern Law School in Chicago to consider with experts how to educate judges and lawyers in the criminal justice system about this issue.