Thursday, April 3, 2008

Junk Science

The Blog article about Dr. DeVore includes this statement:

Only Dr. Devore, by discrediting all the other information provided to him, and by using a very questionable technique and "junk science" was able to give the prosecution exactly what they wanted. He was a very important part of a prosecution strategy that sent an innocent man to death row.

One of the comments to the article asks this question:
Please describe in your own words what the term "junk science" means to you.

In my own words I would describe junk science as the use of unproven techniques and the dishonest manipulation of facts and figures to obtain a required result.

Another definition from is faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas.

SII, including information from several sources, discusses junk science:

Junk Science is one of the major factors in wrongful convictions.

Its deadly potential comes from the trust the Courts and the Jurors place in "expert testimony," when they generally can't tell a good expert from a bad expert.

Junk Science results from a number of factors:

The theory or method is untested.

Peer review is generally the way that new theories and methods undergo the critical analysis necessary
to ensure they are scientifically sound.

The theory or method is scientifically sound, but the expert using the theory or method is not sufficiently skilled in its use, or is careless in its use.

The theory or method is scientifically sound, but the results are exaggerated to mean much more than they really do.

Experts yield to the pressure to please their client, to interpret the data to produce the results the client wants.

The general public seems content with the myth that "paid experts,"i.e., experts that are paid to deliver the desired outcome, result only from rich defendants who can afford to pay for such, and that every expert who testifies for the State is well-qualified, highly ethical, and only wants to present the truth.

Another comment on the blog notes that junk science does not follow the Daubert requirements for scientific evidence:

* The theory or technique must be non falsifiable, non refutable, and testable.
* The theory or technique must have been subjected to peer review and publication.
* The theory or technique must have a known or quantifiable error and to be valid requires the existence and maintenance of standards concerning its operation.
* The theory or technique must be generally accepted by a relevant scientific community.

Junk science is considered a major factor in wrongful convictions by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, and by the Innocence Project.

The Center on Wrongful Convictions of Northwestern University School of Law identifies four types of false or unreliable evidence :
~ False testimony by informant or "snitch" witnesses
~ Incorrect eyewitness identification
~ False confessions
~ False or unreliable forensic evidence or "junk science"

The Innocence project
Since forensic evidence is offered by "experts," jurors routinely give it much more weight than other evidence. But when misconduct occurs, the weight is misplaced.

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