Statistics show that of 311 DNA exonerations since 1989, half were based on faulty forensic science. How’s that for a statistic?
Texas has become a leader in challenging faulty forensic science, thanks a new law that allows convicted offenders to challenge the forensic science used in their prosecution. And this is just the opportunity that many inmates have been waiting for.
One of the most high-profile examples of this involves the notorious “San Antonio Four,” a group of four women who were convicted more than 10 years ago of being involved in Satanic ritual abuse against children. All were recently released after a reexamination of the forensic science used to convict them.
The National Commission on Forensic Science in Action
And the San Antonio Four are just one of many individuals across the United States who are challenging their forensic science findings in court and, after careful scrutiny by state and federal agencies, are being released.
The FBI and the United States Department of Justice, just since last year, have reviewed thousands of criminal cases involving fiber and hair examinations. And the Justice Department announced this year that they are creating the National Commission on Forensic Sciences to investigate these forensic science techniques.
The Introduction of Texas’ Junk Science Writ Law
Even though Texas is known for its strict judicial system and harsh penal codes, they are leading the effort to review criminal convictions involving forensic science evidence, thereby helping exonerate the wrongfully accused. Through the creation of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, Texas lawmakers enacted the Junk Science Writ law (the first of its kind in the county), which gives inmates the option to challenge forensic science through the use of newer forensic science methods.
Although the Junk Science Writ law is not perfect, it does provide defense attorneys with another tool to free the wrongly accused. Critics, however, are quick to point out that forensics still only make up a small portion of the more than 10 million felony prosecutions every year in the United States.