Are crime labs reliable for court cases?

DNA evidence
Forensic scientist Jasmine Thomas prepares blood samples for DNA extraction for evidence in a sexual assault case in the Forensic Evidence section of the Louisiana State Crime Lab June 4, 2003 in Baton Rouge, La.
Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images

The St. Paul Police crime lab scandal last month brought up many questions about the use of forensic evidence in court cases.

But this isn't the first time crime labs have faced criticism of tainted evidence and poor science practices. Labs from Houston to West Virginia have all dealt with similar scandals. With no federal regulations, some say that crime labs aren't being held to correct standards, and with forensic evidence being used for convictions in more and more cases - the results of sloppy lab work can have serious consequences.

Christine Funk, a member of the trial team in the Office of the Public Defender for the State of Minnesota, will join The Daily Circuit Thursday to talk about the reliability of forensic evidence.

"Basically what we see are people reacting only after evidence is called into question; really, we don't see people being proactive," she said.

Jay Siegel, professor at Indiana University, will also join the discussion.

What can be done to ensure that crime labs process all evidence correctly, and how can we educate our legal system on the potential problems with relying on an all-too-often imperfect science?


The lack of knowledge among lawyers and judges have regarding forensics is shocking.

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