A Fab Career As A Forensics Expert!
SHG at Simple Justice describes a disturbing trend in expert witness testimony:
You probably wonder what exactly are the criteria for having a great future in forensics. Years of college and post graduate studies? Years of experience in the trenches? Brilliant articles published in respected scientific journals?
How about the ability to draw a picture on the back of a match book? Not even that much.
Via Keith Lee, Leah Bartos reveals the deal at ProPublica:
This is how I — a journalism graduate student with no background in forensics — became certified as a “Forensic Consultant” by one of the field’s largest professional groups.
One afternoon early last year, I punched in my credit card information, paid $495 to the American College of Forensic Examiners International Inc. and registered for an online course.
After about 90 minutes of video instruction, I took an exam on the institute’s web site, answering 100 multiple choice questions, aided by several ACFEI study packets.
As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an expert witness in criminal and civil trials.
For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate.
How cool is that! And now you can take the witness stand, make up crap and put people in prison for life. Or longer!
Why is this a problem? Because ACFEI is getting bigger:
Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.
One woman even enrolled her cat to demonstrate how easy it was:
But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder.Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently,Dr. Steven Hayne , a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.
SHG explains why this is bad:
Not only is the credentialling available from ACFEI nonsense, but the very efficacy of soft forensic sciences is a product of wholesale fabrication, which used enough in court creates a veneer of reality that eventually is believed by judges, juries and the public…
This is the sort of thing that trial lawyers need to be on the lookout for. If I encountered someone with this credential in a court room, I would demolish their credibility on cross-examination based on this information. What is unfortunate is that many trial lawyers probably aren’t aware of this, and won’t catch this sort of thing at trial. That’s bad for everybody; plaintiffs, defendants, and prosecution. Nothing undermines the administration of justice more than hack experts lending a veneer of false credibility to the theory of one party’s case at trial; more so when that party is the prosecutor in a criminal case. It’s a shame that this kind of crap makes its way into the court room. Unfortunately, it’s not always filtered out.