Friend of the Indiana appellate and post-conviction advocate

An Effective Way of Dealing With Junk Science on Appeal

This article deals with bloodstain-pattern analysis, a forensic “science” that is considered junk science by many in the criminal defense community. What I love about the article is the way that the author explained, through the evolution of case law, how one “expert” created an entire field of “science” that has now become accepted as reliable evidence. Beginning with one man’s interpretation of bloodstain patterns in 1965, which seemed to be loosely based on science (if at all), Leora Smith traces the gradual acceptance of the “science” through 2009, when a report from the National Academy of Sciences finally exposed serious deficiencies in bloodstain pattern analysis.

This technique would be extremely useful on appeal, when arguing that a particular piece of evidence (firearm/toolmark examination, for example) was junk science and should not have been admitted. Imagine using this technique in an initial appellant’s brief. As the State, any case it cited to in response to the argument could simply be explained by placing it on the timeline with the other case law. The State would either be stuck citing to cases that merely bolstered the appellant’s initial claim (by showing how junk science gradually gets accepted as reliable), or it would have to confront the ultimate issue of whether the science is in fact reliable.

I plan to use this technique in a post-conviction case I am working on now…when I finally finish briefing the issue I’ll certainly share.


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