I'm David Torcivia.
I'm Daniel Forkner.
And this is Ashes Ashes, a show about systemic issues, cracks in cilization, collapse of the environment, and if we're unlucky, the end of the world.
But if we learn from this, maybe we can stop that. The world might be broken, but it doens't have to be.
Audio clip plays.
[0:30] Enhance this.
We all are very familiar with the constant enhancements DNA tests, super technology, and other tech based crime-fighting that occurs in our media all the time, but what's the basis for all this? Where does is it all ultimately come out from? And that of course is, forensic science.
The world of forensic science as it actually exists in our judicial system is very different from the technical wizardry of what we find in our media. The actual field is dirty, messy, and filled with mistakes.
[1:02] And those dirty methods that are filled with mistakes, well they lead to convictions. People are sent to jail on faulty evidence and faulty methods that purport to be scientific.
But that shouldn't really be that surprising once we examine the whole purpose of forensic science in the first place, because it hasn't actually evolved out of the scientific method (which you would expect from something that claims to be science), but rather it has been molded to fit a need: convictions.
[1:31] We talked about a lot of topics on the show that we find very important to all of us here on Earth. For some reason this one really stands out to me as maybe one of the most important things we discussed so far, and in terms of numbers maybe this won't affect as many people as climate change or the fashion industry is we talked about last week but in terms of individual lives destroyed of names attached to these lies is this one it's really close to home, and the stories that happened and the reasons why will there heartbreaking.
[2:00] Since the late 80s in the United States there have been hundreds of convictions that were overturned and exonerated because of DNA evidence. Any more than 50% of these exonerations bad forensic science was the reason for the conviction in the first place.
[2:16] United States judicial system has without a doubt killed innocent people because of this bad forensic science. There without a doubt thousands tens of thousands maybe even more of innocent people in jail right now or with criminal convictions on their record for crimes they did not commit because of this broken science. Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves like we tend to do and should step back and start looking first at the science of this field and why it's so broken in the first place.
[2:41] So what is forensic science David if you've ever watched CSI or NCIS. Science?
[2:46] It's a lot of blue UV lights looking for semen I think.
[2:49] Well that's certainly part of it and you get the sense that it's done by scientists and white lab coats with lots of good scientific tools and methods I haven't seen that show.
[2:58] And sometimes they wear rollerblades is NCIS the most popular crime forensics show there is.
[3:04] Well there you go folks but what forensic science is basically it's the practice of subjective pattern match.
[3:24] They look similar enough to be a match with no scientific criteria or standards to inform this expert decision it basically boils down to Pure subjective speculation.
[3:37] And before you start jumping against us and saying wait fingerprint signs is hundreds of years old we know it works I seen Dexter the blood splatter analysis that was definitely think. It's not just us that are saying this in fact the FBI the president's Council of advisors on science and technology, and many of the researchers and law enforcement agents have come together to say you know what this science isn't that good and in fact a lot of it it just isn't science at all.
[4:02] On the president's Council that wrote that report David that was in 2016 and that's will talk about later in the show the first Nationwide review of the crime labs in this country in the United States was actually carried out in the 1970s.
[4:16] The first and only.
[4:18] That's right we haven't had one since. But it's found in the 70s that over 50% of all crime Labs couldn't match paint samples and close to 3/4 made errors in blood sample tests. But we're going to get to that specifically crime labs and the standards and procedures that they employ and will ask the question has anything changed. Before we get to that let's talk about what are some of these methods that are being used in forensic science to put people in jail. Bad Science: Bite Mark Analysis
[4:48] So the president's Council of advisors on Science and Technology wrote that review of forensic science for the president in 2016 and they talk about a host of forensic science methodology, let's just start with the first one bite mark analysis which they conclude does not meet the scientific standard for foundational validity. And is far from eating such standards in fact quote to the contrary. Available scientific evidence strongly suggest that examiners cannot consistently agree on whether an injury is a human bite mark and they cannot identify the source of a bite mark with reasonable accuracy and quote.
[5:30] You know it's bad when somebody can't even tell if a bite mark is human or not.
[5:34] Yeah but in this kind of gets us into this concept that these methods are not really scientific to begin with, for one a lot of them rest on a substance and premises that have never been proven in the case of bite mark analysis those premises are that human teeth impressions are unique identifier. And that we each have our own that is completely distinguishable from any other human and II assumption that this whole field rests on is that you can actually detect these Dental Impressions on human skin. Of course none of these assumptions have ever been proven. Bad Science: Shoe Tread Matching
[6:08] And similar to bite marks also looking at a brush into the courts shoot red matching and maybe this is something more in the realm of Scooby-Doo episodes but in.
[6:16] Those damn kids David it's always the damn kid.
[6:18] Yeah I don't know what I think I should trade match and I always think of of Scooby-Doo people walking and Eli call it matches up it's a size 10 whatever.
[6:25] Isn't it kind of funny though that when they're following the shoe Trends they have to use a magnifying glass like it's a size 10 shoe but you can't see it.
[6:32] Even then in this like you're just cartoon April training this is some sort of science like Let Me Whip out the magnifying glass look at this and, and I get that carried over to the forensics field as well they said well you know it should be obvious if you step on a crown with a shoe is coming tomorrow if we can match it to another shoe well it turns out that, this is also totally bunk that same report concluded that pattern matching shoe Treads with marks left at crime scene and draw conclusions from that. Quote unsupported by any meaningful evidence or estimate to their accuracy and us are not scientifically valid. We've got two things so far that are totally useless but are Mainstays of forensic science.
[7:09] David there's one method in forensic science that was pulled out in the Casey Anthony case that they got a lot of press attention next few years ago, it wasn't mentioned in this report and I won't mention it here but you just got to know it's it's pretty crazy I can't wait for us to get to it.
[7:24] Well with would that be who keep going it's not just the Impressions but also something that I even remember learning this I took a criminology or crime course in my high school and one of the things we looked at on your microscopes and stuff was here are science. Bad Science: Hair Analysis
[7:39] Well it turns out this is also pretty bad.
[7:41] So here now so this is a perfect example of how fly these pattern-matching techniques are. When an examiner wants to determine if a piece of hair matches another piece of hair there's generally two broad categories under which they're going to try and identify characteristics first you can do this with just the naked eye. They have characteristics like how long is it. What color is it to the naked eye is it curly is it kind of straight or wavy what are the general properties and I'm going to write these down for each sample and then they're going to take this and they're going to put it under the microscope so this is the microscopic similarity. And they're going to measure the size the diameter at certain parts of the fiber they're going to look at the distribution of pigmentation and they're also going to try and judge has his human hairs is an animal hair, where does it come from does it come from the head does it come from the pubic areas is it from a white person is from a black person how did it fall off the body was it cut off was it yanked off.
[8:39] So I'm going to just sounds like they're listing everything they can possibly observe about a hair and hoping that enough of these are enough to match.
[8:48] Exactly but the problem is as you can kind of guess this is first of all a subjective list of characteristics. No I don't know if the term wavy falls under a scientific definition or not, but what definitely does not fall under any scientific criteria is how many characteristics do you need to say the something is a definitive match, some experts will tell you that they look for six or seven some will tell you that they require between 20 and 30 characteristics to match before they will make the decision. But it's a match. But when you look at some of the actual cases in which people have been convicted based on hair analysis you'll find that sometimes it can be as little as 3 there was one case in which a man was convicted, or quote on quote irrefutable matching hair evidence.
[9:44] From the head from an African American.
[9:47] Sounds pretty definitive Daniel I mean that's definitely enough for conviction right even better than that.
[9:54] So in one review of a case in which is 17 year old man spent 28 years in prison for Crime it turns out eventually that he didn't commit a case in which he had an alibi for the trial but was convicted anyway because of this microscopic hair analysis. In this review were just kicked off by Scandal at the FBI's here analysis unit to FBI experts could not tell the difference between human hair and dog hair. And this is 28 years later they can't tell the difference now will they sure as hell couldn't do it then and this guy again he spent 28 years in jail because the supposed experts literally couldn't tell a difference between human hair and dog hair much less who's here this is.
[10:33] What's Rihanna's David the FBI has never been good at hair analysis, researchers acknowledged in 1974 that these visual comparisons between different fibers are so subjective you can't possibly come to a definitive conclusion about the identity of these things, and the FBI itself admitted in 1984. That this method could not possibly be used to determine if an individual had been in a crime scene. Or if hair found at a crime scene even belongs to a particular individual. And in 2002 when the FBI looked at some past cases about 80 different cases in which hair was used, well when they ran a DNA test they found that 11% of the time to hairs could be microscopically similar but come from different people.
[11:21] And of course this is all couch in ridiculous statements at these FBI experts would given testimonies saying like well there's only one in 10 million chance at this hair came from someone else, what are just pulling made up number is not based on any sort of scientific validity but ended up in convictions and people locked up for decades and possibly even sent to death row.
[11:40] Are we going to talk about how these experts influence these cases with their testimony but let's move on to another methodology and that's fingerprint analysis one of the most common it's the one that everyone knows. Bad Science: Fingerprint Analysis
[11:52] Yeah hold up one second Daniel here, I love always heard that my fingerprints are like snowflakes are unique and individual only to me and even among my fingers I can look at them and they're all different in each other so clearly, it must be something here that my fingerprints are mine and they should be a good couple of identification but you're telling me this is also in the report I'm shocked.
[12:13] Will look examiners analysts and experts across the board, have all been taught that you can match a partial fingerprint or a whole fingerprint to an individual with 100% accuracy and certainty it's been embedded in the very mindset of, people in the criminal justice system.
[12:30] And I will not just that but also in like I remember being told this in elementary school and you didn't like little glass thing we put our fingerprints on stuff only like sprinkle with dust bowl off on tape and be like oh look I've got a whirlpool in this one's a swirl, and this is a double Archer whatever the hell it is that's like a basic grade school education then they've been telling us this is true.
[12:49] And yet there's not any scientific reason for believing, the two people cannot have the same or similar fingerprint and it turns out that just like hair analysis fingerprint standards are completely random they're made of, the left of the subjective opinion of a particular analyst literally David the examiner just connect the dots between to Prince and eventually says. Looks similar to me it's a match the investigative show Frontline interviewed a fingerprint Examiner. 40 years of experience involving over 17,000 Prince and when asked how he decides to match the examiner says quote I make a leap of faith based on my experience. And this is the part that really surprise me because just like in our fashion episode I always assume that our t-shirts and our other simple textiles we were just printed by some 3D printers where the manufacturer was automated. In the same vein I assume the fingerprints were Mash by computers but it turns out they're not and I guess someone might say well okay maybe it's not a perfect science. This guy has 40 years of experience that has to count for something right.
[14:00] Well there's something not right about judging expertise and good judgment off experience alone in fact as baseless especially when an experience itself has never been held accountable and has never been verified, in the same dang Defenders of the system will say well the few cases in which we've got it wrong or unfairly shadowing the vast majority of cases we got it right. And again how do we know they got it right in the first case it boils down to Circular reasoning that says look at all the convictions we got your welcome and we got these convictions through the fingerprint method and we know that this method works because look at all the convictions we got. It's very easy to see the problem right there. And you might be asking yourself what is the array here it must be infant assembly small there's only a couple of cases as the fax out of the millions of criminal cases are tried each year, it's a lot harder than you would expect and that same report that they wrote for the president's office found that fingerprint matching is 1 and 18 error rate that's bad.
[14:54] When you multiply that by the thousands tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of cases going on all the time that adds up. And it's easy to see why because when there's a human involved making a subjective experience that has no scientific standards bias he's coming to play and in fact a study done in 2006. Try to measure just that the level of bias in some of these decisions so what they did is they identified a group of examiners who had done, fingerprint analysis in the past and they presented the exact same cases to these examiners without telling them that it's cases that they've seen before but this time they included some biasing statements, within the case of such as though this person was arrested for this crime or this person is suspected of having done this. And when they introduced these biasing statements well on average these examiners reversed there earlier decisions about a fingerprint Matt 16.6% of the time. Which means not.
[16:01] Across his or her career.
[16:03] And it says real-world effects 2004 bomb went off in Madrid Spain killing over a hundred people and injuring almost 2,000. Fingerprint found on the Detonator were traced to an attorney in Portland Oregon despite the fact that he Never Been to Spain despite the fact that the Spanish government didn't think this attorney could possibly be a suspect, will the FBI never the last decided to pursue them based solely on the single fingerprint match and it was a strong match a total of four examiners including an independent analysis, that same one that made that leap of faith comment all concluded that it was a match.
[16:37] Of course it wasn't part of the reason is because it was a partial sample and these examiners were doing the best they could but they no doubt felt the pressure to get it right.
[16:55] The relationship between authorities and these examiners doing the work for them that leads to convictions in a little bit.
[17:01] The horse with all these problems here the report just said well we can't trust hair evidence we can't trust sweater or shoe Prints but they did say fingerprint it is based on something that is useful, but we need to get rid of this human subjectivity out of it and we hope that in the future machine learning will do that for us because we talked about in the past machine learning and self basic questions what goes into it why does it saying it's a match why isn't it, and what biases are programmed into the code itself. And we can ride away as saying what's the code rather than whatever input that we traded on what the real reason why machine learning in fingerprint matching probably won't take off just because it's going to introduce an error percentage. It will say this match has a 70% or 30% or 40% chance of being identical. And when I'm a prosecutor in court I don't want to say that I only need a hundred percent match because of things like CSI, the expectation of forensics which will talk about later on today episode expects a fingerprint match needs to be just that. A perfect match any times we introduce figures saying that this is an. It could be something else will that introduced out A Reasonable Doubt and that's not going to fly the core.
[18:09] And that's why I will probably continue to trust the testimony of examiners who are willing to make that leap of faith. Dna
[18:17] But of course offerings of science fees days comes down to the magic three letters be in.
[18:25] The woman Without a Face. Was a criminal mastermind that had gotten away with six murders possibly more and a series of burglaries throughout Europe that detectives in the EU finally brought to Justice after 15 years of search, we're crimes ranged from strangling and elderly woman with wire in her home in 1993 to shooting a police woman in her car. In Cold Blood murder in 2007. In 2009 this woman was so notorious that authorities placed a 3 million euro bounty on her head police all over the continent were hot on the trail of this woman the left DNA evidence that over 40 crime scene. And when they finally identified her police spokesman Joseph Schneider admitted, this is a very embarrassing story and why was it embarrassing well because it turns out the woman have been hiding in plain sight the whole time she have been clocking in regularly to a German medical company Factory where she worked on making cotton swabs. Incidentally these were the same cotton swabs used by police in detective work and the fact that she committed these murders while maintaining a steady day job was one of the more perplexing.
[19:38] I think you might miss the point there. I don't know if she was this nice old polish woman was it was living in side of crime while also making cotton swabs all day.
[19:49] You know that's why I was so embarrassing because she was there in the factory in plain sight police could have found her.
[19:54] I mean I mean that's one Theory but I think what the one that the police eventually realize was that oh she just kind of got the cotton swabs.
[20:06] Oh yeah that makes sense.
[20:07] And yes that's right authorities for suspected that it was their tools that were contaminated not the crime scenes when a sample taken from a live man that is somebody who they had in custody will it produce this Phantom woman DNA.
[20:22] Okay yeah that actually makes a lot more sense cuz I have here in my notes something about transfer and contamination when it comes to DNA and how, sometimes we can't even trust the very method that we have the most faith in. To get a sense of how this transfer how do you make him contaminate crime scenes and lead to wrongful convictions and Confused authorities let's look at the case of Lucas Anderson.
[20:45] In 2012 a homeless man was arrested by police for breaking into the match in a rich Silicon Valley entrepreneur and murdering the owner while ransacking the place the reason police knew our suspect Lucas Anderson was involved was because his DNA, what discovered under the Dead Man's fingernails case closed.
[21:03] Except that it wasn't at least not yet you should detectives may have known he did it but to come up with an explanation they had to search for connections between Lucas the other two men involved in the crime and anything else that related to the scene. Will the main detective knew he finally had a shut case when he made the following connection. Long before the murder / break in about a year ago actually Lucas had spent time in jail with a man who was friends with one of the other men involved in the crime.
[21:35] Before the crime occurred that man befriend of the other man that may have been involved in the crime. Well that man had driven to the city of San Jose which is close to where our suspect Lucas Anderson lived as a homeless man. Now it's closed.
[21:53] Well not quite Daniel I think you need to look at your notes a little bit more because in this case Lucas had a really good defense attorney fortunately for him. And because he faced the death penalty his attorney got all his medical records together in case they could get some mercy on the charge and that's when she discovered that on the night of the murder Lucas have been in the hospital blackout drunk.
[22:12] And the long story short of this is that our suspect walked free after the connection was made that the paramedics that had picked him up and delivered him to the hospital then responded to the murder call and likely brought Lucas is DNA with them.
[22:27] Well how could that be you might ask how could the DNA of two men who never met each other come in contact with each other or even really hung out of the same places and up on each other. And end up almost convicting somebody for the crime of murdering that one man well it turns out that. We shed DNA constantly over the course of our day we should millions and millions of skin cells that are covered are DNA and leave them, all throughout our environment and that's our environment but it crossed everything we touch every place we walk the handle on the subway a bathroom door anything that we come in contact you. Little bit of our DNA with it. Let me illustrate this for you so some researchers who started looking into this idea this idea of DNA transfer which is a phrase it's really important ever going to talk about a lot here, Littleton twin said how does this happen how much is this happened in let's get a better understanding of what it is so that we can better tackle it when it comes to these sort of cases, turn off killing scientist, got together a group of participants and he set them around a table and shared a jug of juice between them he let them sit in chapter 20 minutes just drinking the juice and then they swabbed everything in this room they're sitting at the table The Jug, and the juice glasses itself. Each of them had touched the jug of juice at least once but that's about it when it came to direct contact with a shared similar object the volunteers never touch each other, but one third wound up with another's DNA on their own a third of the glasses for DNA volunteers who did not touch or drink from them. And it was born do you need do you need a didn't even match any of the participants in this study on half of the chairs the glasses and all over the participant and and the table.
[24:00] Where to come from.
[24:01] The answer of course is all over the place the people that had woken up with the people who came in contact with them on the way to this study the researchers themselves they greeted them let them in, and this trail of strangers ends up being a lot more DNA than what the participants themselves actually bought making and their hands for example 75% of the DNA found didn't match any of the participants in the study. It's very obvious how to quickly introduce problems for forensics.
[24:27] It's a problem because as our tools have gotten better as our techniques for discovering DNA have become more precise and more accurate well it turns out do you know he's everywhere. In a 2016 study 75%. All crime scene tools used by detectives was found to be contaminated with DNA and DNA has even been discovered all over crime Labs that are supposed to be clean and free of contamination. But even things that you think you can trust. Like bodily fluids these things that very clearly indicate through DNA analysis is coming from a particular person will even these can have misleading application, the David let me ask you a question real quick you turn on the TV and the reporter is discussing a popular case it's been in the news and it involves a little girl. She was raped and murdered and her body was dumped in the woods somewhere. It's a tragedy that the whole nation is following has been following for a couple of weeks and now the news reporter comes on to tell you that it turns out that semen DNA from her stepfather was discovered in her underwear what would you think.
[25:35] Well I mean it's pretty damning evidence right there right.
[25:38] And I'm sure the report would make it seem that way but scientist discovered again in 2016 that DNA from semen and vaginal secretions can migrate in the washing machine in fact. In the specific study DNA from both parents could be detected in their own children's underwear. So this is the problem with a methodology that purports to be a science but really isn't it opens the door to unwarranted emotional manipulation among many other things. There's a couple things I want to touch on real quick about that Lucas Anderson story David. So you mentioned that he had a really good defense attorney and she was able to pull his medical records and she found that he had actually been in the hospital at the time of this crime. I think this highlights so perfectly. I'll narrow that line is that defendants lives hang on it what if his charge had been 50 years in prison instead of the death penalty. What is attorney still have thought it appropriate to gather all his medical information to ask for leniency with such a basic fact about his Alibi gone unnoticed and would he have spent the rest of his life in jail.
[26:47] And it's worth noting here that part of the reason why Lucas didn't mention this at least initially was he was blackout drunk at the time and the DNA evidence was so convincing. Even he. After hearing that his DNA have been found on this case was like well I don't remember what happened I was drunk I was blacked out that was later picked up and woke up in a hospital but I don't know when that happened. I guess it's possible that I could have done it that's how convincing the 7th is that when somebody was an innocent man is themselves convinced if they might have committed a crime because of his DNA evidence will that has huge potential for this emotional abuse.
[27:22] And if he had spent the rest of his life in jail it would have been a direct result of technology that has gotten better.
[27:30] Well that's actually one of the paradoxical things of this forensic element here that DNA testing has only improve unlike a lot of other friends egg science quote techniques, Paradox Of Better Dna Technology
[27:39] that we realize the time or worse and worse will DNA sequencing the process to do that. And both more accurate and faster, but in a weird way this is almost made things worse so the fact that we can get DNA results with smaller and smaller samples, we can pull DNA from almost anything as we mentioned with this DNA transfer were constantly shedding it so now the police will come into a crime scene and swab literally everything, in the hopes that won't somebody will have the suspect's DNA on it little sample the victim the DNA the sample of people who are normally around there seeing a try and subtract that from this final calculation. In that same report that we talked about earlier for the president's office they looked at DNA science and they said you know what this is the one area where forensic science is actually just at science which accurate but they qualify that statement, MSA single-source DNA, is really good that means if I come in I bleed on somewhere we take a sample this blood and there's a large amount of semen or other body fluids we test that and it's very obvious that this is from. Easy to tell but as soon as DNA starts being mixed in with other ones were theirs in their example three people the suspect into other strangers. Well becomes much harder to tell it introduces an air raid Heist 20% with just three people there and as we mentioned, if you need that can be sequenced by this might be 5 10 20 people. Trying to pull a signal out of that noise becomes very difficult if not impossible and switches signs from one of accuracy reliability and just a matter of matching.
[29:03] To making once again a leap of fate trying to tease a signal out of this noise and saying well it looks like it matches up becomes no different than trying to match fingerprints up. At that point we left their liability DNA and entered into this quasi subjectivity field and that's no good when we're getting convictions on, because you we need consistency we need something we can rely on because ultimately this is a field that people's lives in the balance and making a leap of faith just isn't enough.
[29:30] We know David I wonder if this DNA testing wasn't the only bad science going on in this Lucas Anderson case. The part where they identify a connection between him, this person he met in jail a year earlier and the fact that this person had driven through this area a few days before the crime reminds me of what we talked about when it comes to predictive policing, and the science quote-unquote of mapping out social network so that you can predict who's a criminal who's likely of committing a crime. I think this really highlights the problem with that and how misleading it is and how relying on that is faulty if you're throwing everybody in jail and you're keeping tabs on everybody. Especially if you're talking about people within a certain demographic and geographic area. Of course these people are going to have small Degrees of Separation. And you're going to be able to make connections between these people but that doesn't mean that they're guilty of a crime. Let's move on we've been looking at some of these cases that have occurred in the past and some of the screw-ups and then let's look at something that has happened just recently grabbing headlines. In April of this year.
[30:42] The East area rapist Golden State killer the original Night Stalker these are all one in the same somebody a suspect. Police have killed 12 people raped at least 51 and burglarize hundreds of homes from 1974 through May 1986 along the length of California. Well news recently broke that please have done to break in a case and arrested a man they believe is the original Night Stalker. And so in a case has been cold like this with no breaks for over 20 years question is what changed what led to this break and then answer of course is DNA.
[31:17] What they did is they took an old DNA sample one of these samples that they suspect came from the killer which as we've kind of pointed out. We already had some doubt in that area well they took this sample and they sent it into a Genealogy website.
[31:32] What are these websites that reports like oh yeah at the Mother's Day deal for $100 will you spin a tube send it in, and we will tell you your ancestry will tell you what relatives you didn't know you had and to give you all the report that tells you you know how much Neanderthal DNA you have supposed to be all in good fun maybe learn a little bit about yourself hopefully don't find out you have a secret long-lost sibling. That's the way these services are bitch. But this time a cop sent in the state of they didn't say that this was like oh we're sitting in murder case they set up a fake account they said I'm spending in this tube this is my DNA and they sent this Syndicate sequence. The service not knowing any better not knowing this was part of a criminal investigation maybe of course sequence of DNA, send back the ancestry report but also and who's the important part they send you a list of likely relatives, and they say oh turns out you have a first cousin second cousin third cousin once removed and a likelihood of how much this is true because their name how much of your DNA matches theirs and you can reach out to them on this website if you want. Well this is exactly what that cops were looking for. When is sending this test and they got the results back they hit a match they found that this mystery person but they've been chasing for decades has a genetic relative and from there they found that person's name and that give them a very small pool people to look into. And of course one of them matched up in places that they lived at the time and cops began to Taylor. If all this person around or couple of weeks and eventually found a chance to grab a DNA sample look up or something left behind at a store. It took this rented it to the wrong crime lab DNA and confirm that a match with that sample taken from a crime scene decades before using conventional police.
[33:10] Samples match the news broke they rested their man and Will Rejoice at this former cop. Golden State killer who is now currently in jail awaiting trial for these crimes. What does brings into a lot of questions so we already have a lot of privacy issues with the genetic testing websites. The fact that they're now being used and this didn't seem to be like some new technique but is becoming part of standard procedure for police detectives who don't have a large non criminal DNA database will this becomes a very easy way. They start fighting games to shrink down your suspect pool and starting out why the suspect name for you now have committed a crime rather than old conventional methods of saying well who did this how did they do this let's look at that and there were down from there they just say oh we have a name. Let's figure out how this person committed this crime and that's a seismic shift.
[33:57] It is a seismic shift and it's the exact type of backwards detective work that got Lucas Anderson arrested in the first place it is the very definition of confirmation bias it's not how like you said conventional detective work would have been carried out, in this case you're starting with an identifier and then build a narrative and find evidence that will confirm that this suspect is the person that committed this crime it leaves wide open the gate for bias detective work, for glossing over evidence that would otherwise ruthless person innocent like that night in the hospital for Lucas Anderson. Enemy beyond that I mean knowing what we know now about how DNA controls fur and about how crime scenes are contaminated and what we're going to talk about soon which is the general disorder going on in crime lab, are we confident that number one that this DNA taken from a crime Scene 40 years ago wasn't the result of contamination or secondary transfer. The number to are we confident that it has been perfectly preserved or that long in a crime lab without any tampering or any errors that would otherwise, suspect.
[35:05] And those are excellent questions to ask I mean in this case yes it does look pretty good at least from the evidence has been revealed to us. Going forward this is something we need to remember and especially as juries as members of the public that participate in the judicial process with these are questions we need to constantly be asking ourselves but that's a conversation for later on in this episode.
[35:24] And one other angle to this David that kind of stuck out to me is that.
[35:35] Drapes and I've even seen video reports before they have gone out to the neighborhood where he has lived and interviewed all his neighbors about how he acted what he did.
[35:45] It's even worse oh so this media reporting started. Decades ago with a mysterious killer who apparently kicked off this murder Rampage because of a scorned fiance somebody who have left them, and made him so angry at the world that he went and did this well now that they knew who this man allegedly is well they went and track down his former fiancee they found this woman this poor woman she's happily married she has a job, and she let this life behind her not knowing obviously that he went on to become a murderer allegedly. They published her full name everything about her life their photo and put it online and like basically blames her for all this killing that this guy did which was really crazy shocking thing but I mean I guess that's what happens, clickbait time when the when everyone is rushing to report on the story to try and get the clips from it well whoever can scoop a story like this as shity, and as as unethical as that would be especially it in bring this woman to something that she clearly wants nothing to do with and even blaming her little bit well, I guess that's well within the media's reach for anything for a dollar. Crime Labs: Flawed System
[36:48] Maybe we should question whether it should be legal to broadcast people's names.
[37:20] First sentence that starts with the crime labs.
[37:23] In 1994 a lab supervisor for the FBI crime lab submitted an internal report criticizing rampant misconduct including altering evidence and giving false testimony. The FBI did nothing and when this whistleblower Frederick Whitehurst went to the Department of Justice to complain. If you're fired Amanda type is reputation the fight went on in 8 years later in 2012 the doj agreed to review some of the cases they drag their feet in examining only 500 2015. All the cases that had FBI examiners testify for prosecutors 96% of them gave erroneous statements and of the cases in which somebody was sentenced to death 94% of those cases had errors. Money doesn't just in there in 2015 the FBI and the justice department made headlines when they admitted that for almost 30 years. Examiners at the FBI's microscopic hair comparison laboratory which we already had talked about above had provided blood testimony that favored prosecutors in hundreds of Trials. Officials have known they were put into his sending innocent people to prison on unreliable evidence but still presented the evidence as if the word undeniable science. And while many of these FBI cases are currently being reviewed there is no accountability or plans to review cases of the thousands of technicians at the FBI from this department trained. Examination it sent out to local and state laboratory.
[38:48] We will never know the scope of innocent people convicted of crime because of this one FBI Department alone. And David you mentioned that the FBI admitted to at least 30 years of examiners at the microscopic hair Department providing flawed testimony. These officials had known they were potentially sending innocent people to prison on unreliable evidence but still presented the evidence as if it were an undeniable science and these people didn't just go to prison. In just the hundreds of cases that were reviewed by the National Association of criminal defense lawyers and in partnership with the Innocence Project. Over 30 people have been sentenced to death based on flawed microscopic hair analysis.
[39:35] This is really the story of two problems. The unreliability of the science which we covered a bit and the perverse incentives to convict people crimes that led prosecutors and FBI. Experts to lie about the science in 90% of the cases reviewed officials had made claims of near-certain and exact matches for hair samples when there simply was no scientific basis for those claims.
[39:59] And although this announcement the FBI made regarding 30 years of blah testimony for hair analysis is shocking we have known Pride labs and the work they do is seriously flawed for way longer than that. We mentioned earlier about that Nationwide study carried out in the 70s that found serious problems in crime labs and no National Review has ever been carried out since. And as we'll see not much since then has changed and part of the reason nothing has changed is that crime Labs have no incentive to audit their method. And almost all of them answer to prosecutors but let's examine some specific crime lab atrocities that have made the news in recent years. A drug analysis lab was shut down in 2012 in Boston Massachusetts after it was discovered that one of the chemist had tampered with tens of thousands of drug samples and crime scene evidence over about 10 years. She pled guilty to obstruction of justice perjury and tampering with evidence over her tenure she handled around 60,000 drug samples. A majority of which were tampered with everything from Forge signatures to mixing samples so that clean evidence would test positive for drugs and many cases she would simply eyeball example and claim it tested positive for a drug like cocaine, without even bothering to check simply because she wanted to please the prosecutor and we have to point out that these examiners, a lot of them go to court to testify as expert Witnesses and this chemist was one of those people she would go to court she would testify about the validity of her testing.
[41:34] And she was even charged in 2009 for lying about having a master's degree when she didn't.
[41:40] In fact she was even testifying in court while under investigation for tampering with these drug samples that's how crazy this system is.
[41:49] Yeah well see what sentence in 2013 to 325 years in prison for quote shaking the criminal justice system to its core in the quote that's what the judge said she was released in 2016.
[42:01] No like Daniel mentioned is really shook the criminal justice system and a handful of other people lost their jobs as a result because although she is described as quote Rogue chemist, she only succeeded due to a lack of Standards or supervisor and her colleagues has suspicions about her work but did not do anything. The lab itself in which you worked was in disarray and prosecutors had private email Communications with her calling into question the ethics of authority sharing personal details with those paid to test the very evidence that used to lock people up.
[42:34] Yeah it does it make sense to David for lab scientists and prosecutors to know each other. It's really highlight the extent to which these prosecutors and authorities rely on individual chemist and an analyst there was a bodily fluids scientist that worked for West Virginia crime lab. Who went on trial in 2001 for falsifying evidence over a decade yet when he was fired from that lab and he moved to Texas to a new lab where he continued his work well official from West Virginia. Begin shipping him samples personally because he deliver the results they wanted not the results that were based on real science.
[43:13] Impacted this Boston crime lab case the ACLU that the American civil liberties Union estimated that 40,000 convictions were a direct result of this one lab scientist fraudulent work. Anna 2016 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court agreed to consider what to do about 24,000 of them be shooting ruling in April 2017. 21587 cases were to be dismissed and the people currently in prison to be released.
[43:43] The clearly. With that many people to be convicted off of fraudulent evidence this goes well beyond a single individual a single chemist gone Rogue. There's a larger system issue going on. In 2013 Consultants hired to examine the quality of the crime lab for the Saint Paul police which oversaw the capital city of Minnesota. Discovered atrocious errors and just about every lap procedure equipment was not kept clean technicians didn't keep documentation in order some of them even used, Wikipedia as a quote on quote technical reference and areas where DNA was tested were not clean and federal safety and health standards were violated. They concluded that at least 40% of all fingerprint test we're seriously deficient. And not surprisingly drug cases reviewed we're potentially contaminated honestly this report from these Consultants it kind of reads a little bit funny and certain places David it really makes these employees at the lab sound like chickens running around with their heads cut off. The consultant couldn't even figure out how their fingerprint division work. There were no standard procedures at all and they couldn't even figure out what was going on likely the technicians didn't know either.
[44:57] Exactly the kind of people I want turning who goes to jail for life and potentially capital punishment as well but. This story isn't limited to just these couple of crime Labs it takes place all over the country constantly, crime lab for the Detroit police was shut down in 2008 after similar problems were discovered 10% of cases reviewed from this crime lab have serious errors and likely lead to wrongful convictions, in North Carolina retired FBI agent investigated State Bureau of Investigation crime lab after man that spent 16 years in prison was released, after finding that the blood evidence that was used to convict them what do you think Daniel.
[45:33] Wasn't that the properly got mixed up with something contaminated.
[45:37] I'm guessing that the blood that they thought was his actually came from a dog.
[45:43] But that's close but actually the blood evidence used to convict them wasn't even blood at all.
[45:48] What is it like cranberry juice or something.
[45:51] Probably like red Kool-Aid this is the same story it's played out over and over everywhere we look because the goal is to get convictions not to do good science.
[46:01] These crime labs they answer to the officials who benefit from convicting people. And that state Bureau of Investigation crime lab David they found a training manual that technicians had to read which told them how they were supposed to perform in court so that they could be more credible. And the training manual actually refers to the experts that defense attorneys hire.
[46:28] Professionalism in the justice system.
[46:30] About what I would expect.
[46:32] Not to mention being unbiased right.
[46:35] So the question becomes if we have this consistent problem across crime labs in every state and even at the Federal Bureau of Investigation the world's Premier crime lab. Arbiter of all things forensic science will what is causing this problem what perverse incentives are encouraging the system that makes is rapid fraud really for lack of a better word so ubiquitous. Crime Labs: Money
[46:59] Well one of the reasons David is money so in many jurisdictions.
[47:08] That police get based on the evidence that they test so is very clear to see in a situation like that the prosecutor obviously wants convictions because that's their job. The detectives who are working on the case and you are communicating directly with these crime lab analyst they want convictions because that helps her career and the crime lab technician wants a conviction. Because that's how they get paid there is no incentive at any point along this to do. Pure science and to be unbiased in the treatment of the suspects which by the way are usually for minority and they can't afford a good defense.
[47:46] Need to stop for second right there because any system that decides that a. Questioning The Foundations Of The Justice System
[47:52] Sponsible way of rewarding crime lab is to pay them for convictions or pay them solely on convictions is so clearly broken that we should just throw the whole thing out. What legislative body what your digital body can look at this and say yeah this is a good system when it's so obviously biased. It's completely ridiculous and maybe it's because we don't realize this happens because the funny happens behind closed doors it's not in the public like we don't think about it because our perception of forensics is what we see on television on CSI and then see I asked. This just isn't in our mind we didn't ever even occurs to us we see courts as a place where truth is found. Where people come together we have a huge body of laws and traditions that are supposed to eat out the truth when the truth is difficult to find. And friendship is important component of that but when we can see at the very basic level that the incentives behind the system are so broken and so clearly biased that have calls into question the entire system and the traditional system is, in one of the most important agent of what estate is in general here but what are the components of a state is that it has a monopoly on violence. And maybe that sounds weird at first and when we think of that mostly in terms of the military and what they can do but it's also in it Law and Order release can. They can lock you up cuz violence isn't just necessarily about beating you but it's also about the 9u rights or freedoms. Which rest of this execution of violence or restrictions of Rights because we trust the system that builds it because it's built supposedly on laws that have been vetted and been introduced by a process that we trust and participate in through our Democratic receipt and then these laws are enforced.
[49:27] By judicial system that has checks and balances between prosecutors defense attorneys and the people investigating these crimes. All trying to do what's best time to eat out the truth and trying to prove Beyond any reasonable doubt that what we say somebody did isn't that what they did. And then once that is acknowledged was we know that that's true and we can punish that person without the worries of the Mist application of violence. But if we call into question the motivations and the actions of the people within the traditional system weather through bad sign.
[50:02] This question the entire application of this violence of the fact that we as a state we the people as part of a state. Undoubtedly killed locked up and punished people who are innocent with done nothing wrong solely because some people wanted to get two conditions to get ahead. Tabantha career to make some money they still needs conviction payments and that called into question the entire system itself how can we fix something that the very motivations behind are broke. Well maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
[50:31] Whatever you did mention that for a system that is so important such as the justice system in this country. Crime Labs; Laws?
[50:38] We should feel that we can trust the lost so let's look at the existence of laws that keep these crime labs in check. And what we find is that there are no laws. These crime labs are run by anywhere from a state authority to a private company there are no regulations or laws to regulate them. And as we've mentioned the scientist at these crime Labs have direct relationship with police and prosecutors. In terms of accreditation the only recognized accreditation board in the US which isn't even a requirement to be a part of. What is a private organization which Labs can pay to become accredited and that will boost their quote on quote legitimacy. If that's not bad enough something that might surprise you in forensic science. Is that there are very few actual scientists in the field there is no law that requires the people that run these crime that or even the technicians themselves to have. Basic scientific background the majority of people involved in these brown labs which at this point maybe we should just call businesses. Are business people and former police officer. One criminologist estimates that if you were to require all these crime labs to be run by someone with a basic scientific education.
[52:02] 60 to 70% of all of them would have to be shut down immediately.
[52:06] And again that just people running the crime labs in terms of the scientist actually performing these tests will that number is even lower. These are the same people that are saying without any doubt these matches are perfect or that it's likely that this person is whatever and we need to come pick them, that have no scientific training and it's no wonder that some of these labs when they're actually investigated and looked at by these boards by these independent review groups that they failed just about every possible test that their matches are at, best 50% accurate and even basic things like fingerprinting, and some of these like we've mentioned can't even get things like blood typing right which is a very basic test that we know can we can do accurately for decades at this point. And review board that acts as an accreditation body for these Labs while they don't even keep track of how many Labs end up on suspension or being, punished by the board for not meeting up with this and the fact that they don't keep track of these numbers it should be indicative of how big your promise is they just admit that yes this happens it happens a fair amount but we don't know cuz we don't keep track, and at that point we realized this review board isn't even about actually making sure there are some sort of Standards but it said about rubber-stamping these businesses these labs in order to make them seem more professional than they are, and turn this into an industry that gets money from these convictions. We mentioned help you scientist are actually involved in these Labs well that's him accreditation board has no requirement that the people actually working the lab doing these tests. Any sort of scientific training at all. That means you could go in have no experience maybe just a high school education coming to get a job when we go places and just follow Emmanuel and hope that you're doing this test correctly and I we've already established many times these manuals are the standards that the labs established.
[53:47] Accurate are good or even exist at all.
[53:50] David maybe this isn't the place to bring this up but I did mention at the beginning of the show how forensics as a field didn't involve out of the scientific method but is really just created, to fit this need of making convictions and there was one methodology that didn't get mentioned in that white house report that was kind of funny I really wanted to bring it up, this is a case where the defendant actually won. Also highlights how important and how hard it is to build a good defense against some of these made-up methodologies. So as we pointed out in a lot of cases this forensic evidence is the only physical evidence that links defendants to crimes. These can override Alibis eyewitness accounts and other conventional counter-evidence. And defense attorneys which are usually just court-appointed and don't have a lot of incentive to do a good job they don't have the resources to bring their own forensic experts. Or their own scientist to refute some of these claims and if a jury is presented with an official expert. Backed by some three-letter American institution who says quote and all my experience. I can say with a hundred percent accuracy that this odor is the smell of human body decompose. In QuickBooks how can I defense attorney combat this.
[55:10] She saying there's forensics Mel science quote science.
[55:13] Yeah this is the is the one I wanted to bring up. It was in this Casey Anthony trial this woman who was suspected in the death of her child the prosecutor put tons of forensic experts on the stand to show with convincing evidence that she was guilty. A lot of it was just made up in fact one of the more important expert Witnesses was an alleged expert on smell ology.
[55:37] Smell ology that the actual name.
[55:40] Hey David. You can call it whatever you want I think that's the point. And so what they did is the prosecutors they isolated an odor from the trunk of Casey Anthony's car they sealed it in a can and then had the examiner this expert and smells and odors. And this examiner concluded with absolute scientific certainty that the odor came from a decaying human body. Now what was the scientific basis of his claim well he had a lot of experience smelling dead bodies.
[56:11] I don't even know what time to react to this.
[56:14] Well luckily in this case she was found not guilty but the only reason she walked is because her defense attorney was able to raise enough money by selling photos to a news giant that could then, criticize her on national television and they use that money to pay for a good defense otherwise she would have had no chance against the testimony of these made up experts.
[56:36] And it's not just the experts in the courtroom that are part of the problem but the actual police officers themselves, Testilying
[56:41] I want to introduce you to a term called testilying which is one of my favorite clever little journalistic things as somebody came up with along the way but this is the practice they blame practice I should say. Police officers and these technical experts coming into courtroom and just making stuff up. The New York Times best friend a big report here on testilying cases in New York City where it's common knowledge and practice that police officers will come in and just totally make up stories. When the examples of game is this police officer came into an apartment building knocked on a door and a woman answered it you open the door and she was standing there with a large bag of laundry. Police officer who was looking for a firearm question her she sat down the bag and ask you did so it sort of tapped us but he felt something metallic and it hit the ground and made a loud metallic noise he said. It was enough a suspicion for him to look into this bag found a weapon Ruger 9 millimeter and then came into the apartment search der arrested her and eventually she found a way to try and this is the testimony that the officer gave in court under oath. And traditionally this would just end up being her word against the officers, and it almost every case the jury is always going to side with the officer this Arbiter of Peace the hand of constrained violence for the state when we executed when they absolutely need to and speaks with the force of law.
[57:57] Fortunately for this poor woman there was a camera in the hallway who filmed this whole interaction. Not only was there no metallic noise in the laundry bag but she wasn't even holding a laundry bag she literally just walked up to the door opened it and the police immediately barged in and search your room, the case was dropped the court case was sealed by the court because it was so bad and those officers that lied under oath in a court of law nothing happened to them. Because this has become standard practice for police departments around the country and has expanded from there to even involve these expert witness testimony, just doing is so rampant that is a central component of prosecution today and put defense attorneys and prosecutors know it's happening, but there's very little they can do without direct video evidence that counters with these police officers claim actually occurred and worse the cases where this is exposed most of time these cases are immediately shut sealed, I never revealed to the public so it getting a perspective of just how big of a problem this is when the stars lineup that we can actually demonstrate that a police officer is lying which is rare enough already. It's very typical for journalists and researchers to, look at all this data to calculate how big of a problem is actually is but all we know is that it's rapid and one of these core components of the judicial system which is the things that we keep coming back to is Alden to doubt cannot be trusted and really breaks into justice system as a whole. So what is all this ultimately is forensic science these officers giving these made a testimony in court what's theater for the jury.
[59:22] That's a good way to put it.
[59:24] It's not just in these courtrooms at this Peter occurs but also in the media.
[59:28] We saw that in the case of Casey Anthony the media had her face had her name on TV for weeks they made her look like a killer and it one point they even called her a slut.
[59:39] Well to be fair Daniel I'm at least in theory of the jury's on a case like that are supposed to be sealed for the media that ass if you watch anything so he's kind of reports can affect their ultimate decision.
[59:49] Just like in theory all this evidence is supposed to be reliable.
[59:53] Right in theory and I mean there are a lot of restrictions on then they don't have access to news they're they're constrained insert hotel rooms and stuff like that but, also before a trial starts when the jury selection process is going on you know what they're asked if they seen anything about this story supposedly like say she was just arrested and is being charged do they watch the news they see this anything that might, make them biased in so they look for the least up-to-date doors I guess really in the scenario Define people who are as potentially as unbiased as possible. But where that biased does happen is in the consumption of mass media that talks about forensic science and things like CSI and NCIS in a fact the cop drama is a Mainstay of, Cops And Media
[1:00:32] television how many hit shows on network television are there about police officers I mean like dozens right.
[1:00:37] Well I know the show Cops isn't on anymore at least I don't think it is but I remember watching that as a kid.
[1:00:42] So there was cops right which is literally just was with her predecessor to Modern reality TV or like sort of made up intensified situations for the viewers entertainment but there's also a lot of drama things that revolve around forensic science so it's got a lot in CSI, which is been on for almost two decades now NCIS which was the number one show on television for a long time and is specifically about forensic scientist Person of Interest.
[1:01:06] Stir The Good Wife Blacklist yeah bones Castle The Mentalist Cold Case all the CSI spinoffs like CSI Las Vegas.
[1:01:15] Well those are just the specific TV dramas but how often do we see similar scenes play out just on smaller cases and movies and other TVs that are explicitly about police work.
[1:01:26] Even in in the podcast world how much a podcast media is devoted to True Crime to how people committed crimes and wanting to leave or caught.
[1:01:35] Okay so I'll admit there's a lot of drama surrounding cops but what's your point David.
[1:01:39] The point is is that all this work is getting us in a mind of a police officer and bear with me just for one second here but we need to understand something for.
[1:01:48] The mind of a police officer.
[1:01:50] Right so it's so bear with me empathy is a muscle it's something we can practice we get better at it when we use it. An empathetic thing is watching a TV show about someone or reading a book about somebody or news story that put you in somebody else's situation that shows you their point of view how they live their life how they experience the world.
[1:02:11] Tell me that's why I'm now this generate empathy you automatically empathize with people who use imagine being in their situation through this picture. Well so much of our media is devoted to police officer to police work the cops, that we spend a lot of time imagining ourselves sort of as a police officer understanding how they think what they do why they're doing this understanding of tragedies that occurred in their life how tough the police world is.
[1:02:34] The danger that they go through dealing with the scumbags of the Earth.
[1:02:39] Exactly and I mean it's compelling Fiction it's compelling television put ultimate assist that addiction it's television.
[1:02:45] The worried wife at home wondering if her husband's going to come home safe today.
[1:02:49] Police officer on the last day of his work right before retirement that you just know that they're not going to make it out. Yeah I mean all these tropes these ideas and it's not it's nothing new just goes back decades TJ Booker before that to the film Noir detectives of the 30s, we are obsessed with police culture thinking about police thinking like this and I have an effect on how we think about Judicial Systems in the law enforcement General when we come to court. As a jury that somebody commenting on a case we are automatically curing with us all these thoughts we have about law enforcement media about police about forensic science and in fact this has become a huge problem in courtroom. Dense attorneys are struggling with and prosecutors take advantage of in that people think a lot of times that the things they see on CSI and NCIS are real, the shows might be based on some point on some sort of backdoor nugget of truth but it's exaggerated and intensified and turn into just a mockery hyperbole of what it actually is to be police officer what it actually is. To do forensic science and now when people on the jury are DNA fingerprints as evidence. Because on the television shows it is.
[1:03:55] But wouldn't even more than that I'm sure there's a lot of juries that expect there to be some kind of forensic evidence and would feel uncomfortable sending someone to jail without that expectation of Hard Evidence.
[1:04:08] And this is absolutely true it's in measurable effect and it's something that. Crime labs when we talk about perverse incentives now Police Department's when they're acquiring all the evidence to pursue case and then providing it to the prosecutor they are pressured to provide forensic evidence as well. Because without fingerprints without DNA it's a lot harder for prosecutors to get some sort of conviction but fortunately it's easier than ever to get that front it's evidence. Nobody calls in a question how valid evidence my. And so these crime Labs that are pressured to put out as much as possible that are working well beyond their means in their meager budgets which we've already established working for this conviction dollars instead well it's another broken system that makes all these problems that much worse. And beyond that I mean we're empathizing with these police officers so when they get up on stand and tell us the sly maybe we understand that it's not entirely true that some things are established that they fear for their life at their job is tough but how much of that is true how much that is fiction, how much do ultimately feel for this police officer standing up there because of these lies being fed through fiction. I mean I only looked at these numbers you talk about police officers you think about police work he said that's a dangerous job. Police Work Dangerous?
[1:05:16] It's dangerous they do with criminals so so obviously they're going to be at risk dealing with the most dangerous people in the country in the world.
[1:05:23] I mean if you want to push it that far sure I mean and I'm not saying it's not a safe job there is danger there but it's not even in the top 10 most dangerous jobs, bite deaths and injuries and again as we talked about in the past, most of those deaths that you occur to police officers aren't any sort of somebody coming in and shooting them or stabbing them or or however other way that somebody kills an officer but just police officers getting into traffic. Nursing for example which is something that we never think about isn't dangerous job that has higher incidence rates of both injuries and deaths but who gets the sympathy. And that reason why the sympathy exist for police officers is in large part because of the sympathy machine the media and culture spread out from Sherlock Holmes Olivia Benson on Law & Order.
[1:06:06] Well it's funny you mention Sherlock Holmes because that's a fictional character that was using many of these forensic methods that we rely on today like shoe print and hair analysis. Long before there were any real forensic crime Labs established. Makes you wonder if some of these flights Sciences were just ideas made up by investigators trying to imitate the world's greatest fictional Detective.
[1:06:30] Life imitating fiction imitating life.
[1:06:33] So David what can we do.
[1:06:35] Do this episode is actually very timely for me because as I'm finishing my notes app for this go to my mail I open it up and lo and behold it's finally time for me to have my jury duty in Kings County New York.
[1:06:48] Congratulations. What Can We Do: Juries
[1:06:49] Yes it's true it's unfortunate but I guess that's what we've been told is our civic duty that's the quote that's always use. But it actually works really well in a context of this show because for most of us and most of things we talked about on the show there's very little we can really individually do. But at least here in the United States all of us eventually will serve jury duty maybe we can put on the court case maybe we don't maybe it's civil maybe to come in or whatever but the odds are at some point in your life you will sit in on a trial.
[1:07:18] Ultimately as much as we like to think that their digital system is about Judges about lawyers about high-priced defense attorneys that victims about suspects really in the end the people that it's about are the jurors, everyone in a court case is trying to convince a jury to say guilty or not guilty. And the power to convict or to equip rest with us regular citizens citizens when we have the conversations in these cases when we discuss the validity and legitimacy of these forensic science pieces of evidence, knowing the things that we know knowing I'll pour some of these tests can be we can call into question what I'm sure many of our fellow jurors will believe is irrefutable evidence, we can inform them that no one in 18 fingerprint test are wrong we can teach him about DNA transfer. And in fact a lot of DNA isn't just reading out and it's a perfect match but then said Loosely lining up lines trying to make the match on DNA printouts that it's an exact science most of the time and they call it a science might even be a stretch. We can remind that a police officer's word is no better than anyone else is and in fact might be in more question because for him or her there's no consequence for lying. They have no motivation to get a conviction to put somebody in bars in order to advance their career. And even more here in the United States we have the power of a jury veto if you ever want to get out of jury duty walk up and just start talking about jury nullification and will kick you out of courtroom so fast you don't even know what happen. But this is a long-held beloved right of citizens this was used to dramatic effect during prohibition and ideas that if the people of a jury disagree with the law in that case the law prohibition maybe today marijuana convictions.
[1:08:55] A lot of you believe is unjust that shouldn't be true you as the jury can come together and say, we won't commit week with this person even though the evidence lines up we think that they actually did it we don't think this laws just so we're going to vote to acquit to let them go this is a power that we all have this is one of the major things I got probation removed. It also has a bit of a dirty history to was used a lot in the south in order to free white people who are being convicted for killing blacks. The power today remains to reset this balance because most of the people in criminal cases are minorities, and we as yours can a former villagers that this is a chance we have to do our little bit to fix this broken judicial system to fix law enforcement in order to take a little bit of our power back from the hands that took it from us.
[1:09:41] That's a big opportunity for us as individuals David. But that is only when these things actually go to court and not a plea bargain which is what actually end up happening most of the time and that brings us to thinking about, all these systems and the incentive ultimately create the evil that we see going on.
[1:10:02] Don't get me started on plea Bargains Daniel I mean that can and probably will be its own show with such a horrible broken totally fucked up system it's unbelievable. What Can We Do: Systems Thinking
[1:10:11] Can't wait to get into that with you David but when we think about how does evil plays out in the world we have to look at it from the system's one of you because let's take the case of that analysts in the crime lab that resulted in. The 40,000 convictions that were based on faulty evidence why did she do it. Many people that have looked at her situation conclude that the reason why her work was fraudulent why should tampered with evidence was for one reason and that was esteem and respect. She wanted to be liked by the authorities that depended on her work. An individual level isn't the desire to be liked ultimately part of Being Human I mean in her case sure she took it to the extreme but we're talking about a natural human trait in a lot of people. And so does that make her as an individual evil. Maybe maybe not but what definitely is evil is the system that was able to exploit that trait in her. And exploded out to tens of thousands of cases that resulted in the wrongful conviction of thousands of people, that was the evil it resulted from a system A system that exploited a human trait. And so in order to fix this problem we don't need to trade out individuals within the system we need to fundamentally change that system. And whether that involves severing that connection between authorities and the crime lab analyst testing their evidence. We're providing some kind of regulatory framework for this crime lab so that their standardized and so that they're forced to employ people with actual scientific education those are things we can look at but ultimately it has to be a systems fix.
[1:11:54] That's right I know there's a big propensity in this critiquing of the law enforcement system of the judicial process that it's as Bad actors that their these Rogue agents out there who doing things wrong but in general that the system overall. Perfect and built on such Tradition at nothing could possibly be broken in it because they're so many checks and balances right. I think that's a scapegoat did a lot of media and an internalist use because they're hesitant to critique Law and Order, cuz once you do that you bringing the question so many things again that Monopoly on state violence if we can't trust, estate in executing that which maybe we shouldn't anyway looking at some of the the military the prison industrial complex which again can be its own Standalone things which I don't want to get into right now. This process when you start bring into question the very elements of order for a lot of people that's what this is you start getting much bigger questions and just broken crime labs. Let's also not ignore Daniel the economic incentives to so you say that maybe was because in this particular example of any Dukan this out of control lab technician.
[1:12:56] Ultimately she wanted to be liked but why is it that to be like she had to go through as much work as possible to be the most efficient lab tech and of course the answer that is economics. Labs only gets paid on the samples that they process, so whoever makes the most money for the lab is most liked by the managers by the administration of that lab and so yes she was trying to just appeal to these people to be like to be respected But ultimately that respect was because she made the lab more money.
[1:13:24] That's a fantastic point because I guess if the standards had been not who's getting the most convictions but who's providing the most accurate work who has the cleanest station. Who follows the procedures that we've Now set in place the best in the most thoroughly. That same in a quality in her that made her work super hard to please the people that she worked for well now it would have been channeled into something positive and something that would have resulted in good science. What Can We Do: Practical
[1:13:53] So I mean these were a lot of very amorphous answers for what can we do but there are a couple specific things that can be done at a systems level until we have larger fixes to rebuild the system, and one is separating his crime Labs out from law enforcement agencies and also not running them as businesses and independent state-run organization is probably the best way to do this, but independently Audits and keeps a standard for each of these crime labs and ensures that hiring standards and then also methodologies in the lab are maintained, and done at a high level. That you would expect a quote-unquote lab to be doing of course that's going to cost money and that money cannot come from convictions needs to be provided without question. Without based on any sort of limits or trials that have ended in convictions or anything else no strings attached this is the money cost to process something that's how much it cost. And that money needs to come from somewhere and then I'm sure we can dig it out for something as important as being able to trust our lawn order system. Beyond that we need to spend money on researching some of these forensic techniques in a transfer research is not done in the United States. They are Labs working on it in the European Union and other places. There is no funding for This research in the US and something that says important as it is a DNA and getting those convictions we need to be putting money in this the better understanding how we can actually end up with DNA from strangers. Ending up in crime scenes that's so important to be able to trust DNA and the fact that we're not looking into it I think really speaks volumes about somebody's problems.
[1:15:19] It's a tall order David but it is something that needs to be done, it is a tall order because researchers have been denied funding for doing studies on the error rates of some of these forensic methodologies enclosed cases. So I guess before we can even fund decent studies we have to remove the stigma from doing so in the first place.
[1:15:40] And there's a lot of other things that we can do for police officers for punishment in general but those are well outside the scope of the show and things that will explore in the future it's a tall order but I think if you want to be able to trust. Estate trust these convictions trust crimes and Punishment these are things that we absolutely have to get started on it immediately.
[1:16:00] And of course we should block and fight any attempt by authorities to make it easier. For them to collect forensic evidence that is not strictly tied to a crime. Like some loud apartments that have tried to implement stop and spit programs in recent years which involves stopping innocent kids and other people on the streets. Forcing them to give up their saliva for the purpose of building DNA databases.
[1:16:27] The Privacy implications of this are enormous much less the targeting problems of as we seem to stop and frisk probably targeting mostly minorities, be a building not to even be able to just walk down the street without thinking caused by police officer asking you for a biological tissue sample. Seems to me like it should be pretty apparent to anybody but I don't want to live in a police state where I'm at. Spit in the tube on command and I'm sure the rest of you don't either so as we move forward until World War our DNA is tracked catalog and recorded we need to constantly be thinking about the Privacy implications of this and what it means, for us to no longer have control over our own biological code.
[1:17:04] David that's a lot to think about.
[1:17:06] It is Daniel and if you want to think about it some more and read some of these sources including that long report for the presidential office as well as many other studies on Forensic Science or read a full transcript of this episode, you can do all of that on our website at ashes ashes. O RG.
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