26 Sep We Ask Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers If We Can Trust Forensic Evidence
Ever heard of the ‘CSI effect’? Where in shows like CSI and Criminal Minds forensic evidence like blood and fingerprints are collected, analyzed and used to aid police in tracking down and prosecuting the right culprits, all in a day – or an episode.
But has this given us unrealistic expectations about using forensic evidence IRL? We’ve talked to some of Sydney’s leading criminal defence lawyers to see what they say about this…
Simply, dealing with forensic evidence in the NSW justice system is nothing like on our glamorous crime shows at the touch of a button on Netflix. Our Sydney criminal defence lawyers made this clear from the start.
A big issue is how reliable our forensic evidence really is. All of Sydney’s practicing criminal defence lawyers have read volumes of empirical research to get where they are today. A systematic, scientific approach is endorsed for investigations under the NSW justice system.
Forensic evidence is more complex than on TV and the truth is evidence like hair and other DNA samples aren’t as conclusive as we’d like to believe, so we need to take each piece with a grain of salt. Our Sydney criminal defence lawyers want us to remember each source of evidence as a possible part of the story, and never the full story.
Sydney’s criminal defence lawyers also say we need to note the miscarriages of justice that have occurred. While DNA samples are one of the most reliable forms of scientific evidence, there have been cases where it’s led to false accusations – like that of a man in place of the real culprit, Daoud Ouhnane, who was responsible for the Madrid bombing. This was based on a partial fingerprint.
As Sydney’s practicing criminal defence lawyers would have had drilled into them in university, the scientific method underpinning forensic investigations is all about minimizing error. If it’s possible results have been affected by something other than the source in the collection, handling, keeping, and testing of samples, the accuracy and trust in the evidence falls hard.
We encounter similar issues when it comes to forensic psychology. Police and Sydney criminal defence lawyers work closely with experts in memory and suggestibility who advise about the problems that may be encountered with stories from eye-witnesses and victims…
Children and feeble minded may be contaminated by leading questions. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?” as an example given by Sydney criminal defence lawyers. The wording may encourage an expected response. There are also suggestibility problems, whereby we want to agree with authority so we give answers that aren’t necessarily accurate.
Those with less self-esteem are prone to this, which may be the case following an incident that’s shaken them up, or in the embarrassment of appearing before a court. Our Sydney criminal defence lawyers emphasise that we need to consider all these things before accepting words as solid evidence.
So, how can we reduce false memories? These can occur due to the above. It may also be a case of painful memories being forgotten. Sydney criminal defence lawyers suggest a few pointers to help..
- Start with free recall – “tell me everything that’s happened”
- Follow with open-ended prompts to clarify details – “Tell me more about that”
- Avoid specific, closed questions
- Establish ground rules, acknowledging it’s okay to not answer a question
Forensic evidence has been seen as key to solving crimes. But there are fictional expectations that Sydney criminal defence lawyers can debunk through scientific methods, and want jurors to be forewarned and forearmed about these.