When I wrote “Dreams of a Broken Man” I mentioned Lindy and Michael Chamberlain’s conviction for the murder of their baby daughter, Azaria. The case against them was eventually disproved beyond doubt but one piece of forensic ‘evidence’ still has me shaking my head. The original case had Lindy killing her baby while sitting in the front seat of the Chamberlain’s car causing a spray pattern in the car. This pattern, which an expert found to be foetal blood, was eventually found to be soundproofing compound applied at the time of manufacture. Had a number of the same model been tested the same pattern and result would have been found and the theory would have debunked. The problem isn’t so much the science which can and should be open to scrutiny, it is blind justice being led into quick sand by expert testimony which is anything but.
The Chamberlain case is not the only recent case where bad science has bewildered investigators unwilling or unable to dismiss it. The Cleveland child abuse scandal refers to a 1987 wave of suspected child sexual abuse cases in Cleveland, England. You would have to wonder why sexual abuse suddenly rose from the national average to double that in less than twelve months. In the end it was painfully obvious, because of a wrongful interpretation of a natural function two paediatricians were suddenly diagnosing sexual abuse where none existed. Children were ripped away from families, parents were charged with abusing them and had to fight through the Courts to prove their innocence. Finally sanity prevailed and 94 children were returned to their families as the science behind the diagnoses was proved to be rubbish.
In April 2015 the FBI published a report which showed that in over 90% of cases microscopic hair analysis contained erroneous results. Erroneous, as in ‘containing error; mistaken; incorrect; wrong’. 90% of the over 3,000 cases in which the analysis connected an accused person to a crime is over 2,700 cases where there could well have been a miscarriage of justice. The figures are only for cases conducted by the FBI and exclude those test run by State and local crime labs. In at least 35 of these case the defendant received the death penalty and 33 of the test were found on review to be wrong. That would be laughable had someone’s life not been at stake.
The results of this slavish following of bad science is not just academic, real people are suffering and being found guilty of often heinous crimes they have not committed. These are the modern day equivalents of Matthew Hopkins techniques when he was terrorising the UK countryside as the Witchfinder General.
I have commented before about the use of DNA evidence exonerating people but even DNA science is now being challenged, and rightly so. Without challenging these assumptions, and if investigators and juries continue to be bedazzled by ‘experts’, we are condemned to see increasing instances of miscarriages of Justice.