All evidence provided in a court trial is critical to the outcome of the case. In addition to eyewitness testimony, forensic test results may be factored in when the jury or judge makes their final decision. Although the scientific professionals relaying information to the court should be reliable, this is not always the case. Some forensic tests do not provide reliable and accurate results. In some cases, the inaccuracy of the results could lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.
According to the Innocence Project, more than 340 people have been released from their prison sentences after DNA evidence proved they were wrongfully convicted of a crime. Of this number, 45% of the erroneous convictions involved the misapplication of forensic science. Misleading or false forensic test results contributed to 24% of all wrongful convictions throughout the country.
A portion of the misleading information is attributed to forensic tests being used that do not yield accurate results. Despite the fact they the tests are not scientifically validated to provide reliable results, they are still used in court cases. These include the following:
- Arson burn marks
- Shoe print comparisons
- Tire tread mark comparisons
- Hair follicle analysis
- Comparative bullet lead analysis
In addition to bad results, lab technician errors can also occur. Technicians can make mistakes that lead to wrong results or, in some cases, may intentionally botch the test results.
California enacted a law enabling convicts the ability to seek further testing if they believe flawed forensic science was used in their case.