cover image Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

Junk Science and the American Criminal Justice System

M. Chris Fabricant. Akashic, $28.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-63614-030-8

“Follow the science” turns out to be a mistake in the criminal justice system, as Fabricant, the Innocence Project’s director of strategic litigation, forcefully demonstrates in his impressive debut. He convincingly argues that the forensic methods that have been used in countless cases to prove an accused’s guilt are deeply flawed, as are the reliability of certain “scientific” claims, most notably those of dentists who testified to conclusively matching a defendant’s dentition with a bite mark found on a crime victim. In some instances, bunk science presented as fact led to wrongful executions, such as that of David Wayne Spence, convicted and killed by lethal injection for participating in a murder-for-hire plot in Texas; it was only after Spence’s execution that the “expert” testimony was debunked and his innocence conclusively established. Chilling sections expose the lack of any reliable scientific basis for bite-mark identifications, as well as relied-upon arson investigative methods, and detail how the cases Fabricant and his colleagues labored to resolve justly represent but the tip of the iceberg. This j’accuse provides a broader look at a deeply disturbing aspect of a criminal justice system already considered racist and biased by many, expanding upon the narratives of more narrowly themed books such as The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South. The endemic injustices Fabricant lays bare will likely shake even advocates of robust law and order approaches. (Apr.)