The FBI's vaunted crime lab is a scandal of atrocious forensic science. Its "junk science" permeates the U.S. criminal justice system as it bogus "findings" routinely punish the innocent and set the guilty free, affecting thousands of lives in the process.
by John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne
Scientific crime solving or sci-crime – it is an image upon which much of the FBI's awesome reputation is based. Humans are fallible, are inclined to lie and are often motivated by anything but the truth. The history of crime fighting in the United States is littered with eyewitnesses who misidentified a suspect, defense lawyers who persuaded juries to find reasonable doubt, and suspects who had credible alibis. The physical evidence on the other hand is the silent, definitive witness. The traces of explosives on Timothy McVeigh's clothes in Oklahoma City, the bloody shoe-prints left by the killer of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in Los Angeles, the saliva traces recovered from the sealed envelope of a letter claiming responsibility for the bombing of the World Trade Center…all these offer certainty. And certainty equals proof.
The means of making physical evidence proof is forensic science, the application of science to legal processes, the application of science to crime-fighting. Together or apart, the words "forensic" and "scientific" are today commonly used as everyday adjectives that imply definitive, detailed and comprehensively argued. It is an image burnished by popular television detective series like "Quincy" and the coverage of big cases by Court TV, an image epitomized by the source of the country's most famous forensic science, the FBI's crime lab.