February 20, 2009

Even less like telly

The US report mentioned on this very blog a couple of weeks ago has now been released, providing disheartening evidence that real life is even less like telly than anyone taught us.

Among its many criticisms, the study counted a backlog of 359,000 requests for forensic analysis in 2005, a 24 percent increase in delays since 2002. A survey of crime laboratories found 80 percent of them to be understaffed.

But, but, but ... I thought the best staffed forensic labs in the world only need four people.

“I am troubled by the report’s general finding that far too many forensic disciplines lack the standards necessary to ensure their scientific reliability in court,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Indeed, we are all troubled. The precision and confidence of forensic analysis on telly leaves no room for doubt or dilly-dallying.

The report calls into question the scientific merit of virtually every commonly used forensic method, including analysis of fingerprints, hair, fibers, blood spatters, ballistics and arson. Only DNA, which the panel said had benefited from rigorous scientific scrutiny and peer review outside of the forensics discipline, escaped significant criticism.

The panel also found that most of the nation is served by death investigation offices that lack accreditation. It cited an 18-year-old high school student in Indiana who was recently elected deputy coroner after a short training course.

The academy said that in addition, judges and lawyers generally lacked the scientific expertise necessary to “comprehend and evaluate forensic evidence in an informed manner.”

Oooooh, arrrrh. Judges and lawyers aren't going to like that.

On telly, juries always understand evidence. Always.

(Oh, and lamest neutral headline of the week award goes to the NYTs ... )

Study calls for oversight of forensics in crime labs


  1. Anonymous8:44 PM

    'Deputy Coroner' did not appear on the list of things I wanted to be when I left high school.

  2. Back in the old days you could only be the coroner Dylan.

    The extra layer adds a career path and aspirational incentives for teenagers wanting to become the local coroner.

    The short training course has been included so as to confer a formal qualification on toddlers and teenagers with an appreciation for forensics.

    "Your autopsy is in young, agile hands."