Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

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Search results for "forensic science" ...

  • Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn't

    The book revisits the murder conviction of Jo Ann Parks, sentenced to life in prison without parole for allegedly murdering her three young children in 1989by setting fire to her home and trapping them inside. In re-investigating the case, the author found flawed forensic science, false and contradictory testimony, and strong evidence of cognitive bias throughout the case, including use of an unreliable informant who later recanted, and sworn expert testimony that the fire began because Parks supposedly constructed a crude “incendiary device” by deliberately overloading a sabotaged electrical extension cord. Testing later proved the cord did not and could not start a fire. Information in the book has since been added to Parks’ existing habeas corpus petition filed by the California Innocence Project, now being considered by the state Supreme Court. Additional findings suggests the problems with flawed forensic science and cognitive bias in general, and in arson investigation in particular, is widespread and has led to other wrongful convictions. Correcting the use of flawed forensic and expert testimony is hindered by the legal system’s reliance on precedent, which slows and sometimes prevents the correction of scientifically dubious ideas used to win convictions. Nascent attempts to study and change this tendency to prolong the use of flawed forensic science initiated by the Obama Administration have been shut down by the Trump Administration.
  • System Failure

    An innocent man spends 6 years in prison for the murder of his infant daughter. It was never a crime to begin with. The forensic science used to convict him was flawed. It’s another example of the shoddy work of a Minnesota medical examiner we have investigated and reported on since early 2010. We continued our coverage this year with 2 more stories. One features an in-depth look at the case of the man wrongfully convicted of killing his child who was set free after a review of the evidence. The other examines the mysterious death of an Army National guardsman and the lack of a thorough investigation by the medical examiner to find the true cause of the soldier’s death.
  • The Real CSI

    Evidence collected at crime scenes—everything from fingerprints to bite marks—is routinely called upon in the courtroom to prosecute the most difficult crimes and put the guilty behind bars. And though glamorized on commercial television, in the real world, it’s not so cut-and-dried. A joint investigation by FRONTLINE, ProPublica and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley examines the reliability of the science behind forensics in The Real CSI. From the sensational murder trial of Casey Anthony to the credentialing of forensic experts, “The Real CSI” documents how a field with few uniform standards and unproven science can undermine the search for justice. The investigation follows a landmark study by the National Academy of Sciences that called into question the tenets of forensic science. For the first time, Harry T. Edwards, a senior federal appellate court judge and co-chairman of the report, sits for an interview to discuss what the report means. And, FRONTLINE examines one of the most high-profile terrorist investigations since 9/11: the case of Brandon Mayfield, an attorney who was wrongfully identified and arrested as a suspect in the Madrid commuter train bombings after the FBI erroneously matched his fingerprint to a partial print found at the scene. In “The Real CSI,” FRONTLINE correspondent Lowell Bergman finds serious flaws in some of the best known tools of forensic science, wide inconsistencies in how forensic evidence is presented in the courtroom and no system in place for establishing the credibility of so-called “forensic experts” whose testimony can lead to a conviction.
  • Forensic Science

    A nine-month investigation found that Justice Department officials had known for years that flawed forensic evidence might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people but had not performed a thorough review of the cases. In addition, prosecutors did not notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled, forcing innocent defendants to stay incarcerated or on parole. The Post identified two District of Columbia men convicted largely on the flawed forensic work and testimony of FBI hair analysts who wrongly placed them at crime scenes. Since the Post report, both men have had their convictions vacated and judges have taken the unusual steps of fully exonerating the men so they can seek compensation from the government. As a result of The Post’s work, the Justice Department is reviewing more than 21,000 FBI Laboratory cases handled before 2000 to identify convictions that might merit exoneration, re-trial or re-testing of evidence.
  • The Mysterious Death of Janie Ward

    This hour-long report is a result of a five-year investigation into the death of a 16-year-old girl 20 years ago in a small town in the Ozarks. It's about two daughters -- one wealthy and popular (a cheerleader and beauty queen); the other poor and self-conscious. It's about two fathers -- one a powerful judge who allegedly shielded his daughter from the law he's sworn to uphold; the other a bail bondsman who is trying to avenge his daughter's death. And it's about one family's fight for justice against what they believe is a corrupt judicial system that closed ranks around the powerful judge to cover-up a murder. When 16-year-old Jamie Ward fell off a 9-inch porch in the woods near Marshall, Ark., on September 9, 1989, her parents refused to blieve that the fall had killed their healthy teenager. Instead, they began to suspect to suspect she was murdered by the judge's daughter. After years of demanding an investigation into her death, an independent medical examiner associated with Parents for Murdered Children exhumed Janie's body a second time for an extremely rare third autopsy. Because the case was 20 years old, most of the files were not digital; rather, the investigation focused on old-fashioned reporting: finding and interviewing eyewitnesses (all of whom had not been reinterviewed since the original investigation); analyzing inconsistencies in the witness statements, double-checking the forensics with independent experts.
  • Silent Injustice

    Through analyzing "thousands of pages of documents" and interviewing "dozens of people," 60 Minutes and the Washington Post found that "there were hundreds of defendants imprisoned, who were convicted with the help of now-discredited forensic tool... The FBI never notified them, their lawyers or the courts that their cases may have been affected by faulty testimony."
  • Miscarriages of Justice

    Freelance journalist Eamonn O'Neill tells stories of wrongful murder convictions. Robert Brown, who spent nearly 26 years in prison due to forged evidence; Stuart Gair, whose more than 15 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit; and Raymond Gilbert, imprisoned for 26 years while continuing to maintain his innocence. While O'Neill tells of the compensation Brown and Gair were offered by the government for their hardship, he also tells of the lack of forensic evidence and bogus confessions in the Gilbert case.
  • Evidence of Injustice

    Through analyzing "thousands of pages of documents" and interviewing "dozens of people," 60 Minutes and the Washington Post found that "there were hundreds of defendants imprisoned, who were convicted with the help of now-discredited forensic tool... The FBI never notified them, their lawyers or the courts that their cases may have been affected by faulty testimony."
  • Crime and Science

    The author tracked a high-profile murder case in North Carolina in which scientific evidence was a factor. The two part series looked at what can happen when errors, contamination or manipulation call the science into question.
  • Reasonable Doubt

    This documentary exposes a lack of oversight and integrity at forensic crime labs across the country. It uncovers negligent work, nonexistent standards and even crooked lab employees. The story casts doubt on the reliability of forensic science techniques ranging from fingerprinting to hair analysis to DNA testing.