Forensic Science Essay Example
Have you ever wondered if forensic science works as it does on TV shows? For years crime shows like NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, and others have portrayed forensic science as the most advantageous development to happen to our justice system. While forensic science has some usefulness in the justice system, it is a way to error-filled science at the moment. In this essay I will be answering the questions, what is forensic science, how reliable is forensic science, what are the facts and misconceptions of forensic science, and finally what is The Innocence Project?
One of the most asked question to date, what is forensic science? To get technical for a second, the word Forensics originates from the Latin word “Forensis” meaning “in open court” or “public” by (“Forensics” 1). Now to answer the original question, “In a nutshell, forensic science is the application of scientific methods and principles to questions of law” - Exploring the History of Forensic Science: Through the Ages. A bit of interesting information, the first official recorded use of any forensic science was back in 44 B.C., when a Roman physician, Antistius, performed the first autopsy on, none other than, Julius Caesar. Now, despite all 23 stab wounds Julius sustained, only the second one to his chest killed him (“Exploring the History of Forensic Science: Through the Ages” 1). Since the first use of forensic science in 44 B.C., there have been numerous developments to forensic science. Simply a few of the developments are forensic archeology, botany, criminalistics, DNA analysis, engineering, geology, linguistics, pathology, odontology, and, toxicology, some of these forensics play a vital role in today’s justice system. (“What is Forensics?” 1).
To test something's reliability, we must first see how easy or hard it is to obtain a position in that field. According to (Linville and Liu) “Forensic scientists are chemists and biologists with supplemental training on applying their science to forensics and the criminal justice system.” “Forensic science is for serious scientists who wish to apply their knowledge and skills in a field that directly benefits society through facilitating the prevalence of justice” (1). To put this information in simpler terms, forensic scientists are simply regular scientists with more training towards applying their skills to our criminal justice system, and only scientists that want to keep our society safe the correct way are wanted. There are many schools where someone interested in forensic science can go, study, and obtain a degree.
With any discoveries, there are excellent and atrocious results, the same can be said about forensic science. The excellent forensic science would be DNA forensics since it is the most accurate of all forensics. According to Harry T. Edwards “Among the biggest problems that we uncovered in the report is the absence of the application of scientific methodology to determine whether or not the discipline was valid and reliable as was done with DNA” (Jones 1). DNA forensics was developed by medical science and has been subjected to decades of rigorous scrutiny, unlike many of the other forensic sciences (Bergman and Cediel). So to summarize this chunk of information, DNA is the most accurate forensic science and it is the only forensic science to be validated. DNA tests were developed by medical scientists and have called into question other forensic sciences. Some more interesting facts from (Jones 1), “DNA has actually called into question the reliability of other forensic sciences”, says Innocence Project co-founder Peter Neufeld. The last interesting fact on DNA, (“Can DNA Demand a Verdict?” 1) humans actually share 99.99% of the same DNA and that only 0.01% of our DNA makes us unique. However, scientists can pinpoint us out of everyone due to that 0.01% DNA difference.
The atrocious forensic science is bite mark forensics. Bite mark analysis has produced a high percentage of false positives. According to Peter Neufeld “There have been a number of people who were convicted based on bite-mark testimony, who were sent to death row or to sent to prison for life, and in each of those cases a whole group of forensic odontologists, forensic dentists, said that they were absolutely certain that this was the guy and they were absolutely wrong.”. For years, we have been “... using techniques, using equipment that's never been validated scientifically” - Peter Neufeld (Bergman and Cediel). Bite marks change over time from various reasons, the most common being swelling and healing. (Jones 1).
There are many misconceptions when it comes to forensic science, and a vast majority of misconceptions come from the crime shows today. One of the main misconceptions being that forensic science is done by scientists, however, the majority of forensic science is done by law enforcement. Law enforcement, or CSI, is nothing like what you see on the crime shows, and according to Detective Joanna Grivetti “The real CSI is dealing with blood, getting dirty underneath a car, smelling things that you don’t want to smell, seeing things that you don’t want to see. You see the worst that humans are capable of doing to one another. There is evidence that needs to be collected, documented, processed. It’s about taking the time to find the small things that are going to wind up being a big thing down the road.” The other main misconception is that fingerprint identification is infallible since no two people have the same two fingerprints. There is no validated science for fingerprint analysis (Bergman and Cediel).
A fact of forensic science is that it is done by CSI agents and special scientists instead of by machines. Yes, machines are used sometimes, but the majority of the time, it is done by the CSI and forensic scientists. But when it comes to tests, forensic scientists have to take leaps of faith when they think something is a match (Bergman and Cediel). Another fact is that forensic science is sometimes used to rule out (a) suspect(s) (“Open for Discussion: How Reliable is Forensic Evidence?” 1).
The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck, is dedicated to saving those who have been wrongly convicted of (a) crime(s) by forensic science, the name plus its place in this essay are the dead giveaways. The Innocence Project has saved many innocent lives by using DNA testing to prove someone’s innocence. The Innocence Project is also striving to help the criminal justice system prevent future injustice (“About” 1). The Innocence Project has saved, to date, 364 people, including 20 who were on death row, sadly these people served an average of 14 years in prison or on death row before they were exonerated. (“Exonerate the Innocent” 1).
In conclusion, forensic science has built a veil of false truths that have lead many innocent people to suffer in the place of the actual criminals. Forensic science is a faulty “science” that needs to be fixed before we ever use it again in our criminal justice system. Yes, there are some uses for it but we can not/should not rely on something this faulty. So, the next time you hear something that sounds even a little fishy, do some research on it, you never know what you will learn.