News 02.13.08

NBC News tonight: DNA shakes up forensic science

Faulty bite mark comparison sent Kennedy Brewer to Mississippi’s death row for a murder he didn’t commit. Now DNA has proven his innocence, and the Innocence Project is asking a judge to drop all charges against him at a hearing set for Friday morning. Tonight on NBC Nightly News, reporter Robert Bazell covers DNA’s impact on forensic sciences used in the American criminal justice system. DNA exonerations have proven again and again that unreliable science can send innocent people to prison.

Now the Innocence Project and dozens of other organizations and experts are calling for a thorough review of forensic practices still in use. A report from the National Academy of Sciences on the topic is expected this summer.

Most forensic techniques “started because some officer had a case he had to solve, and they had to come up with some new angle on it,” Peter J. Neufeld, founder of the Innocence Project with his law partner Barry C. Scheck, told me. "So, they invented a technique. And those techniques, whether they're bite marks, or hair or fiber, never went through the kind of robust research that DNA was subjected to.”

Congress has asked the National Academy of Sciences to study the validity of current forensic techniques. The report, due out this summer, could shake up the field even more.


Read the full story here, and explore NBC’s interactive feature on the many facets of DNA testing

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Watch the report on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams tonight.

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