Stossel: Junk Science Locks Up Innocent People

Stossel: Junk Science Locks Up Innocent People
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    Do you watch CSI?
    Law and Order?
    NCIS?
    I like how those crime shows use
    modern science to get the bad guy.
    Rob's prints
    are all over Singer's convertible.
    The pollen that was in Petty Officer Bick's lungs
    is found only one place on earth.
    People who watch these shows
    believe that this is how it's really done.
    It's not?
    It's not.
    Former detective Harry Houck's annoyed
    that the TV shows make
    forensic science look infallible.
    And you watch a detective get down and look at a body
    and touch it
    "he's been dead for three hours now,
    he ate dinner four hours ago."
    I can't do that.
    On TV, experts identify the killer
    by his bite mark.
    A little 3D magic for clarity
    and I give you the
    killer's incisors.
    In real life, experts
    claim they can identify criminals that way.
    Swinton was convicted and sentenced
    to 60 years in prison based on testimony
    that bite marks found on the victim
    were his.
    The TV show Cold Case Files covered the trial,
    in which Alfred Swinton was convicted
    because this so-called bite mark expert said
    Swinton's teeth matched a bite on the victim.
    When the models of the teeth
    were laid onto the bite mark,
    it was a perfect match.
    The expert explained he's a neutral scientist.
    A forensic scientist is not on the side
    of the prosecution or the defense.
    We look at the evidence
    and we make sure
    that if we're going to make a decision,
    it's going to
    be a truthful decision.
    The doctor was just wrong.
    He was just wrong because
    it's an unreliable technique.
    It looks like science.
    It does.
    They're in white lab coats,
    they sound very authoritative,
    but they're full of it.
    Lawyer Chris Fabricant
    helped get Swinton freed from jail
    by doing a DNA test.
    New DNA evidence shows
    he had nothing to do
    with the 1991 murder of Carla Terry.
    Tonight Alfred Swinton's conviction was vacated
    and he's a free man.
    That's Chris Fabricant
    celebrating with Swinton
    the day he was released.
    Bite marks is similar to you and I maybe
    looking at a cloud and then I say to you,
    John doesn't that cloud
    look like a rabbit to you?
    And you look at it and say, yeah Chris
    I think that does look like a rabbit.
    But that kind of junk science
    puts innocent people in jail.
    That's one or two people.
    Many more people are in jail
    and we're supposedly safer
    because of that.
    If you think that maybe even 1%
    of convicted defendants may have been
    innocent, we have 2.6 million people in prison today
    so we're not talking about a couple of people,
    we're talking about
    tens of thousands of people.
    But the people who use these techniques
    they believe in it,
    they're confident.
    Sure, they're confident.
    It's faith based science.
    The expert who got Swinton convicted
    now admits he was wrong
    but police still trust bite marks.
    Let's say one tooth is missing in the front so
    you got to look at that and you go,
    your suspect's got one tooth missing in the front
    that's pretty good.
    But then again, that's not enough.
    Houck says he'd demand other evidence,
    but not all cops do.
    Especially if experts say
    they're sure someone's guilty.
    When they say so, you trust that.
    Yes.
    But even fingerprint evidence isn't foolproof.
    The deadliest terror attack on Europe
    since World War II.
    When terrorists in Madrid killed 193 people,
    the FBI found this
    fingerprint on one of the terrorist's bags
    and matched it to this fingerprint of a
    man in Oregon.
    An international investigation led to Brandon Mayfield.
    However,
    two weeks after Mayfield's arrest,
    Spanish investigators found the
    man to whom the fingerprint really belonged.
    FBI researchers claimed
    fingerprints are right more than 99% of the time,
    but that still leaves plenty of
    wrongful convictions.
    Other technique are even less accurate.
    Carpet fiber evidence,
    gun tracing,
    hair matching.
    Microscopic hair comparison evidence
    has been admitted by courts for a century.
    In one case, it was a dog's hair.
    A dog hair was associated wrongfully
    with a human hair.
    Since the turn of this century,
    there have been 75 wrongful convictions.
    Fabricant works for the Innocence Project.
    By using more modern DNA evidence,
    the project's lawyers have
    helped free 191 innocent people.
    All these people
    were wrongly jailed
    based on so-called scientific evidence.
    Why do judges admit this stuff?
    Why don't defense attorneys
    get it thrown out?
    We all went to law school because
    we don't know science,
    we don't know math,
    and if somebody comes in with a white
    lab coat and says,
    I've been accredited by the American Board of Forensic
    Odontology and I've been practicing for 20 years
    that's good enough for
    government work.
    That shouldn't be the standard.
    Too much is at stake.
    Jurors tend to believe people who
    courts call experts.
    But the experts often rely on
    junk science.
    Juries and judges should be much
    more skeptical.
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