The Department of Justice has just announced that it will revive a forensic science initiative that was begun in 2012, during the Obama Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a halt to the initiative in April, in order to invite public comment.
A large number of common forensic techniques including bite marks, hair analysis, ballistics, fingerprint IDs and footprint analysis were called into question last year. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a nonpartisan group established by Congress in 1976, issued a report that debunked the evidence produced by the techniques as unscientific.
The Attorney General of New York has accused ExxonMobil of providing what may be "materially false and misleading statements" to investors, and he's not the only prosecutor with its site set on the oil giant. Massachusetts' Attorney General is involved in a federal case against the company, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating.
The last time you watched a crime show or a movie involving the death of one person at the hands of another, chances are the characters used the words homicide and murder interchangeably. In reality, the definitions of the two words include important distinctions.
In 2011, an Arizona state prison inmate was infuriated when corrections officers read his confidential correspondence with his attorney, even though it was marked "legal mail." He sued the Department of Corrections for violating his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, among others.
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant's right to "be confronted with the witnesses against him" in all prosecutions. That's one reason why the state can't bring hearsay evidence against you in a criminal case, for example. You have the right to see, hear and confront any witness (or even a document) accusing you of any crime. It's an essential part of due process of law.
Any Arizona motorist who has ever been pulled over by police knows how distressing such situations can be. One minute, you're driving along, perhaps after enjoying a nice evening out with some friends, and the next thing you know there are red and blue lights flashing in your rear-view mirror. Sometimes, simply finding a spot on the roadside to safely pull over and stop is enough to cause anxiety.
The Atlantic magazine recently looked into the history and current state of plea bargaining in America and found it's not everything we would hope it could be. In most states and the federal system, fully 97 percent of criminal cases are resolved via plea bargain, even though the right to a speedy and public trial is enshrined in our Constitution's Sixth Amendment. That means that the vast majority of criminal defendants are foregoing the protections of a trial by jury.
You finished enjoying a wonderful meal with a special someone in your favorite local restaurant. During dinner, the waiter asked if you and your date would like to try the house wine. You thanked him for the suggestion and ordered the wine. You only drank one glass because you knew you'd shortly be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Over the past couple of decades or so, we've seen a lot of people exonerated via DNA evidence. We've seen a litany of scandals involving overburdened, inaccurate and even criminally inadequate crime labs across the nation. We've seen forensic evidence, once considered top-shelf, decline in reputation as its collection, processing, testing and results have all been shown to be subject to error -- or worse, shown to be flawed or invalid.