Expert Witness Helped Convict Wrong Man
A panel of six independent forensic scientists stated, in a report filed in a Houston State court, that crime laboratory supervisor James Bolding helped convict an innocent man of rape in 1987. Because Bolding either lacked basic knowledge of blood typing or gave false testimony, George Rodriguez spent 17 years in prison for a rape that he did not commit. Bolding’s testimony in the case was challenged amid a scandal that led to retesting of evidence in 360 cases; And with the report filed, that number could increase by the thousands, involving 25 years of cases.
“The panel concluded that crime laboratory officials might have offered ''similarly false and scientifically unsound'' reports and testimony in other cases, and it called for a comprehensive audit spanning decades to re-examine the results of a broad array of ...view middle of the document...
In many cases, the HPD technicians used up all existing evidence, making it impossible for defense experts to disprove or verify their results.
Jim Fisher, a former FBI agent and retired criminalistics professor who has taught forensic science notes, in his book Forensics Under Fire: Are Bad Science and Dueling Experts Corrupting Criminal Justice?, that problems in forensics “have kept scientific crime detection from living up to its full potential” (Clarke, 2010). A concern that the judicial system has is properly differentiating between valid research and junk science. Some of the problems encountered by forensic expert witnesses include:
1) Unqualified or incompetent lab workers;
2) Personnel using false academic credentials;
3) Contamination in labs that cause false test results;
4) Employees falsifying test results to ‘help the prosecution’;
5) Lab examiners committing perjury; and
6) Lack of qualification standards and industry-wide training requirements for lab workers (Clarke, 2010).
Motivations for expert witness actions may include: 1) understaffing and excessive workloads; 2) an inability to perform the tests due to a lack of training, education and experience, or 3) the belief that the police have already arrested the right person, so evidence testing would be unnecessary.
Hiring qualified personnel, training them properly and providing adequate oversight, could deter the problem.
Clarke, M. (October, 2010). Crime Labs in Crisis: Shoddy Forensics Used to Secure Convictions. Retrieved from:
Liptak, A. and Blumenthal, R. (5 August, 2004). New Doubt Cast on Testing in Houston Police Crime Lab. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/05/us/new-doubt-cast-on-testing-in-houston-police-crime-lab.html?src=pm&pagewanted=1