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If At First You Don’t Succeed

Here’s that DUI case we alluded to last week. It’s based on a driver’s challenge to his license suspension after his arrest. His post-arrest blood test showed a blood-alcohol concentration (or BAC) of 0.23 percent. He challenged this finding at the DMV’s administrative hearing and lost. He then petitioned the superior court to overturn that finding and lost Read More

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The Surprisingly Imperfect Science of DNA Testing

That’s the title of this in-depth look at DNA testing through the lens of one cold murder case. Although DNA evidence is widely regarded as the gold standard of forensic science, we should be careful about checking our brains at the courtroom door just because the government exclaims, DNA! The science works well when we can test an ample, Read More

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FBI Acknowledges Rampant Errors in Microscopic Hair Analysis

On Monday, the FBI and the Justice Department announced the first results of a large-scale project called the Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review, and they weren’t good. Here’s how the Washington Post broke the story: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in Read More

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Mother of Five Gets New Trial on Capital Murder Conviction

Have you heard of Hannah Overton? She’s spent the last seven years serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her four-year-old, then-soon-to-be-adopted son. But this September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is that state’s supreme court for criminal cases, reversed her conviction and sent it back Read More

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Trombetta-Youngblood and the Problem of Bad Faith

As we noted last week, a court may dismiss your criminal case if the government destroyed or failed to preserve evidence that was potentially favorable to your defense. If you make that argument, however, the court will engage in a two-step analysis, the first step of which will ask how favorable or exculpatory the lost evidence was (or could have been). If the evidence had exculpatory Read More

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The Future of Facial Composites and the Forensic Sketch Artist

This short, two-and-a-half minute video offers an interesting glimpse into the enduring use of sketch artists in modern-day criminal justice. The role of the forensic sketch artist is waning, giving way to computer software programs and the proliferation of surveillance cameras everywhere we go. For many, however, the sketch artist continues to supply a valuable investigative tool. Surveillance videos, after Read More

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Orange County Crime Lab Announces Error that Affects Blood-Alcohol-Test Results in 2,200 Cases

In the real world, crime labs make mistakes, even in Orange County. Earlier this month came word that the Orange County Crime Lab had produced inaccurate blood-alcohol-test results in 2,200 driving-under-the-influence (DUI) cases that were filed this year. In recent days, the District Attorney’s office has issued letters to people whose cases may have been affected, including 900 people whose cases Read More

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Crime Labs Can Be Good, Bad, Or Downright Ugly

When we think of crime labs, we often think of shows like CSI or NCIS in which flawless technicians rigorously employ scientific methods in pristine labs. We don’t usually think of people faking test results, contaminating samples, or forging signatures. Nor do we think of dirty equipment, faulty techniques, or a lack of standardized procedures. But Read More

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