“Menace To The Innocent: Insubstantial Expert Evidence Endangers Innocent People Accused Of A Crime” is now available on Amazon.com.
The following is an excerpt from the book’s INTRODUCTION:
“We live in an age of magic as a way of life. At least that is how a person who lived 200 years ago could be expected to think of the modern world. In actually, we live in an age of science that to the uninitiated certainly can seem magical. Almost every man-made process we have today that wasn’t available 200 years ago is the result of applying scientific principles to varying degrees to achieve the end result.
The quest to solve crimes has not been immune to the application of science. However, this book demonstrates it is not unusual for science to be misapplied, disregarded, or relied on in name only to “solve” a crime and close a case by identifying a person as the culprit. The result is a crime solved by the magical masquerading as science. This situation exists because there to no reliable mechanism to ensure the system isn’t gamed by the prosecution’s reliance on expert “scientific” evidence that in reality is no more reliable than a confession to being a witch by a person who simply wants to stop being dunked into a pond.
There is generally no scrutiny of crimes “solved” through expert evidence because of the resources necessary to do so, and over 95% of convictions in the U.S. are by a guilty plea that precludes any critical examination of the prosecution’s supposedly expert evidence. The overwhelming majority of defendants in this country have limited – if non-existent – financial resources, and public defenders who handle the overwhelming majority of criminal cases have limited budgets, and case load pressure to take the path of least resistance and plead out every case possible.
Consequently, the legal system is structured so that the overwhelming majority of convictions that rely on the soggy foundation of suspect expert evidence – which may in fact be no more stable than quicksand – fall through the cracks into the black hole of a case closed by a plea bargain.
There is relatively little will-power by those within the system to correct this state of affairs. The four primary actors in the legal system’s operation – judges, prosecutors, police, and defense lawyers – are integral parts of the assembly line that generates the steady flow of convictions the system depends on for its smooth functioning. The increasing reliance on expert evidence to secure convictions assists to grease the wheels of that system.
The depth of that reliance is demonstrated by how those primary actors exhibit a quasi form of Stockholm Syndrome by their psychological alliance with the use of expert evidence that often is insubstantial and undermines the credibility of the system they are a part of. That psychological state can be called “Expert Syndrome.” The way experts are viewed and uncritically relied on masks that their contribution to a case is often no more reliable than the incantation of a witch doctor is to cure an illness or end a drought.
“Menace To the Innocent” goes far beyond identifying the magnitude of the problem: In its last chapters it proscribes no-nonsense solutions to rectify the problem of innocent people being ravaged by prosecutors who rely on bogus expert evidence to secure their conviction. One of those solutions is to close the FBI crime lab and all local, county, and state crime labs because they are inherently, and irredeemably biased toward the prosecution. Not incidentally, those crime labs operate in a manner that would be unacceptable for a university science lab … much less a privately operated commercial laboratory.
The Table of Contents follows:
1. The Innocent Are Endangered By Insubstantial Expert Evidence
2. Shoddy Work Is The Norm For Crime Labs
3. Roll Call Of Suspect Crime Labs And Expert Prosecution Witnesses
4. Doctored Tests And Testimony Undermine The Presumption Of Innocence
5. Destruction of Potentially Exonerating Evidence OK With The Supreme Court
6. Fingerprint Analysis: Voodoo Palmed Off As Science
7. DNA Probability Estimates Elevated By Smoke And Mirrors To Certainty
8. False Positives – DNA Testings Dark Side
9. A Random Match Probability And False Positive Probability Are Divergent
10. Wrongful Convictions Are Cemented with False Positive DNA Testimony
11. Bite Marks, Hair Analysis, And Other Skeptical Forms Of Evidence
12. Ill-Founded Expert Testimony Is A Godsend To Prosecutors
13. Minimal Crime Lab Performance Standards Breed Slothful Conduct
14. The Subjectivity Of Forensic Evidence
15. Prosecutor’s Fallacy Skews Considering A Defendant’s Possible Innocence
16. Are Prosecution Experts Criminals?
17. Double-Blind Testing Can Detect Inaccurate Crime Lab Tests
18. Methodic Doubt Can Overcome Pathological Science In The Courtroom
19. Crime Labs Are A 20th Century Invention That Contribute To Shortshrifting Reasonable Doubt
“Menace To The Innocent: Insubstantial Expert Evidence Endangers Innocent People Accused Of A Crime”, By Hans Sherrer (The Justice Institute, 2018), 230 pgs.