Clifford Spiegelman, Texas AM University
(THE CONVERSATION) Popular television shows such as the “Law Order,” “CSI” and “NCIS” franchises glorify forensic science as a magical, near-flawless tool for identifying criminals. Not surprisingly, Hollywood’s depiction of forensic science needs a reality makeover.
The “CSI effect” is well-documented. As long ago as 2009, scientists with the National Research Council noted that no forensic method (except for nuclear DNA analysis) can reliably and consistently connect evidence to a specific individual or source. More recently, President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology reported that pattern-matching forensic procedures are unreliable. The Innocence Project has exonerated many hundreds of wrongfully convicted people, and bad forensic science was found to be a contributing factor in about half of the original cases.
These problems are not new. Six years before the National Research Council’s 2009 report, I was on a panel of the