Improper forensic testing can lead to wrongful incarceration

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Although forensic tests may help to link a suspect to a crime, tests that are conducted improperly may lead to the imprisonment of an innocent person.

When Florida law enforcement officials investigate a crime, they often use forensic testing as a way to link the suspect to the crime. When performed correctly, forensic tests can positively identify a person as the perpetrator of a crime or prove a suspect's innocence. Tests that are conducted improperly or have not been validated as scientifically accurate, however, can lead to the wrongful incrimination and conviction of an innocent person.

Since 1989, DNA evidence has led to the release of 330 innocent people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime; approximately 12 of those cases were in Florida. According to the Innocence Project, at least 47 percent of those cases involved the use of forensic tests that were not conducted properly or that have not been scientifically validated as reliable.

Case in point

One Florida man spent 35 years behind bars for kidnapping, rape and burglary before evidence proved he was innocent. Improper blood typing performed by the FBI provided false evidence that linked the innocent man to the crime. After testing a sample of semen that was found on the victim's underwear, the analyst determined that the suspect had an AB blood group. The perpetrator, however, was group B. Despite opposing testimony from an expert for the defense, the FBI analyst testified that because of the suspect's weak A, he could potentially be the perpetrator.

Use of unvalidated tests

Although the results of some forensic tests are allowed as admissible evidence in court, they have yet to be scientifically proven to yield reliable results. These tests include shoe print comparisons, hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons and firearm tool mark analysis. Many of these tests were used prior to the discovery of DNA testing. Yet, many are still used in criminal cases. Although these procedures may give hints as to who committed a crime, lack of scientific proof should keep them from being used as reliable evidence.

When good tests give bad results

Forensic testing procedures that have been extensively evaluated and proven to be scientifically accurate may provide bad results. People, who are conducting these tests, including DNA and serology tests, are highly-trained. One small error in the testing procedure or oversight when evaluating the result may lead to the wrong person being convicted of a crime.

When is legal help necessary?

For people who are facing criminal charges in Florida, lives are on the line. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney understands the importance of digging through the details of each case. If you have been charged with a crime, you may want to speak with a lawyer regarding your rights and legal options.

Keywords: wrongful, conviction, incarceration