Miscarriages of Justice: Law Enforcement and the Resistance of Science
The resistance by many police departments and prosecutors to adopt the best practices in forensic testing has resulted in miscarriages of justice.
"Failed Evidence," by David A. Harris, explores the real reasons that police and prosecutors resist scientific change, and it lays out a concrete plan to bring law enforcement into the scientific present.
Cover Courtesy NYU Press
Written in a crisp and engaging style, free of legal and scientific jargon, Failed Evidence (NYU Press, 2012), by David A. Harris, will explain to police and prosecutors, as well as anyone else who cares about how law enforcement does its job, why the criminal justice system has resisted science for so long and where we should go from here. Because only if we understand why law enforcement resists the best that science has to offer will we be able to convince those in power to adopt it. In this excerpt from the introduction, Harris tells of certain miscarriages of justice wherein traditional investigative methods failed to place blame on the guilty and, in turn, punished the innocent.
Science-Driven Policing, or Police Indifference to Science?
In 2010, and for the previous nine years running, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation ranked among the most popular shows on television in the United States. The program became a hit so quickly after its premiere in 2000 that the original series, set in Las Vegas, spawned two clones: CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. These shows put a new twist on the old police procedural drama. The CSI officers solved crimes with high-tech forensics: gathering DNA, lifting fingerprints with revolutionary new techniques, and using science to reconstruct the paths of bullets. Watching these programs, the viewer knows that policing has changed. For every member of the CSI team using a gun, more wield test tubes, DNA sampling equipment, and all manner of futuristic gizmos designed to track down witnesses and catch the bad guys.The show signals a break with the past, because it revolves around the way police use modern science to find the guilty and bring them to justice.
CSI reflects the emergence of DNA evidence as a powerful tool since it first appeared in American criminal courts in the late 1980s. With DNA and other formidable forensic techniques on our side, little could escape our scientific police work. In this new world, in which science could tell us definitively that the police had the right guy, with a probability of millions or even billions to one, the game had changed for good. The “just the facts, ma’am” approach of Sergeant Joe Friday, and the slow and inexact old-school ways that might or might not turn up evidence, began to seem like quaint relics of a bygone era. Sure, some real-world police protested that CSI raised unrealistic public expectations of both forensic science and the police, but CSI simply put a drama-worthy sheen on the way that police departments liked to portray themselves in the age of DNA: using the best of what science had to offer to construct air-tight criminal cases. Police frequently announced that they had used DNA to catch guilty people, sometimes for crimes far in the past, attracting wide public notice and bolstering law enforcement’s science-based image. With headlines like “State, City Police Laud Increase in Arrests Using DNA” in Baltimore, “Georgia DNA Solves 1,500 Cases” in Atlanta, “DNA Databanks Allow Police to Solve at Least Four Murders” in Memphis, and “With Added Lab Staff, DNA Tests Resolve String of Old Killings” in Milwaukee, the direction and approach of police work now seem woven together with the latest scientific advancements. Science has given police and prosecutors an enormous, unbeatable advantage.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>