When forensic testing goes wrong in an AZ criminal case

Forensic testing that is used in criminal trials may produce erroneous results, which could lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.

When a crime occurs in Arizona, crime scene detectives, lab specialists and other professionally trained technicians are often involved. These people play a crucial role in the development of a case by helping to uncover facts regarding the evidence involved in a crime. In fact, the results from forensic testing in a criminal case can determine whether or not a person is sent to prison and for how long. Unfortunately, the results of all forensic tests may not be accurate. In some cases, the people performing the tests may make a mistake or fail to follow proper protocol, which could lead to erroneous test results. Furthermore, tests that have not been scientifically proven to provide accurate results may be used and accepted as admissible evidence in court. All of these factors may contribute to the conviction and incarceration of an innocent person.

Common forensic tests

When conducted properly, scientifically validated tests can offer hints as to who committed a crime. DNA analysis has helped to exonerate at least 380 people from their prison sentences by proving that they were innocent of the crime they were convicted of committing, according to the Innocence Project. Other tests, such as bite mark comparisons, firearm tool mark analysis, hair microscopy and shoe print comparisons, have not been proven to provide accurate and reliable results. Yet, many are still used as evidence in court trials across the country.

One Arizona man fell victim to the erroneous results of a bite mark comparison. The man was a suspect in a crime and was asked to make an impression of his teeth on Styrofoam for evaluation. He was later arrested and charged with homicide and several other violent crimes. Although there was no other incriminating evidence against the man, the bite mark comparison was used to identify him as the perpetrator. He received the death penalty. After spending 10 years in prison and on death row, the man was finally released after DNA testing found him innocent.

Understanding scientific standards

When forensic evidence is released before a jury during criminal proceedings, the jury may or may not be informed as to how reliable the information is. A forensic analyst who is poorly trained, makes a mistake or does not have the proper resources he or she needs to conduct a test may come up with invalid results. In addition, fraudulent analysts can easily taint the evidence by concealing parts of the results or fabricating the readings.

Bring the truth to light

People who have been charged with a crime deserve fair representation and should have all of their rights upheld in a court of law. If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona, you may want to seek the counsel of an established attorney who may be able to investigate the details of your case.

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