Many of the “forensic science” methods commonly used in criminal cases and portrayed in popular police TV dramas have never been scientifically validated and may lead to unjust verdicts, according to an editorial in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We wanted to alert people that this is a continuing and a major issue: that many of the forensic techniques used today to put people in jail have no scientific backing,” says senior author Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and the Alfred & Jill Sommer Professor and Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The authors were the six independent scientists who served on the National Commission for Forensic Science (NCFS), a panel set up in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The NCFS was terminated early last year when the DOJ did not renew its charter.
The scientists wrote their editorial as an appeal to the scientific community to help maintain the momentum in putting forensic science on a firmer scientific basis. The co-authors include colleagues from West Virginia University, Cornell University, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Brown University and the University of Arizona.