Wednesday, April 13, 2022

M. Chris Fabricant's "Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System"

M. Chris Fabricant is the Innocence Project’s Director of Strategic Litigation and one of the nation’s leading experts on forensic sciences and the criminal justice system. Fabricant is featured in the Netflix documentary The Innocence Files and his public commentary has been published in virtually every major media outlet.

Fabricant applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System, and reported the following:
In Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System on page 99 (the sentence begins on page 98):
By the time I began working as a public defender in the South Bronx in 2006 (at the Bronx Defenders), the DNA revolution sparked by the Innocence Project had changed the landscape of the American criminal justice system. Doubt had been introduced; the threat of wrongful conviction was no longer theoretical. My generation of defense attorneys was pushing back on the introduction of unreliable evidence against our clients. Nearly always, we lost. And men like Keith Harward and Steven Chaney—innocent prisoners who later became my clients—continued to be convicted on junk science. Most courts refused to seriously entertain arguments that forensic sciences were unreliable, wrongful convictions notwithstanding. But the same year I started in the Bronx, the National Academy of Sciences began another—much more comprehensive—investigation into forensics, this time focused on the many forms of poor people science.
The Page 99 Test works well for my book. It concludes the first chapter of Part II, which begins to bring my personal experiences more directly into the narrative, concludes the discussion of the DNA revolution, the founding of the Innocence Project and surfaces a theme, “poor people science,” that I explore throughout Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System. Poor people science is the difference between the scientific evidence used in civil litigation, where money is at stake and less likely to be unreliable, and the “scientific” evidence used in the American criminal justice system, where life and liberty are at stake, and junk science is pervasive. The difference speaks to our values as a society.
Follow M. Chris Fabricant on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue