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Forensics: science-based evidence is infallible, right?

When it comes to weighing in on the question -- candidly, a query being increasingly posed -- whether forensic evidence is scientifically valid, another question must be asked in tandem.

And that is this: How valid is the science that purportedly underlies a given forensics test or tool?

Notwithstanding that "experts" have been expounding on the alleged accuracy and utility of analyses relating to things like hair, bite marks, firearms and shoe imprints for many years, questions -- indeed, troublesome inquiries that have followed conviction reversals in legions of cases -- have steadily emerged to challenge quick acceptance of offered proofs based on forensic analysis.

Here's what critics say: simply accepting the conclusions of forensics-reliant evidence is dangerous business.

And here's why, according to a recent article that cites to two recent reports on forensic science. Despite the degree to which proponents -- understandably, prosecutors and police officers being principal among them -- routinely laud forensics-driven results, "many methods have not been tested rigorously enough to be considered scientifically valid."

That assessment is backed by the independent and well-respected President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which concluded last year that several of the above-mentioned forensics standards -- e.g., suspect identification through shoe sole design or bite marks left on a victim -- are too sketchy to be deemed routinely accurate in court.

In fact, bite marks have been maligned by research analysts as "clearly scientifically unreliable at present."

The bottom line regarding any evidence offered against a criminal suspect is that it must be closely and thoroughly examined in every instance by a proven defense attorney.

And that is true regardless of its professed accuracy and scientifically sourced methodology.

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