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Another View Of Forensic Science

July 28, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 30

Thank you for the article “Forcing Change in Forensic Science.”

As a practicing forensic scientist, I was somewhat disappointed, however, that the article seemed to focus so much on the negative aspects of the science (C&EN, May 12, page 10).

Over the years, thousands of crimes that might have remained unsolved have been unraveled by forensic science applications. Criminals have been convicted and punished, and those people incorrectly accused of criminal acts often have been exonerated via evidence developed with forensic science techniques.

As the article points out, a number of workers in forensic science have been implicated in acts of scientific misconduct. However, this behavior has been documented in all scientific fields. Forensic science is not immune to the problem. It would be interesting to see a study that compares the percent rate of scientific misconduct in forensic science with that of other science disciplines.

The nonchemistry fields of forensic science—latent evidence, hair and fiber comparisons, questioned documents, and so on—have provided the criminal justice system with much useful information when that evidence is viewed with the proper understanding of potential error and is properly weighted by the arbiter of fact. The chemistry-based fields of forensic science—DNA and controlled-substances analysis—were determined to be based on sound scientific principles by the National Academy of Sciences’ report referenced in the C&EN article.

Richard Waggoner Jr.
Cary, N.C.


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