By Vanguard Staff
SACRAMENTO, CA – A new criminal justice reform bill announced Monday by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-SF) would amend the standards used for evaluating expert testimony and forensics in court pre- and post-conviction – and could lead to exonerations across the state, the lawmaker predicted.
Wiener said, “Faulty forensic and scientific evidence, provided by expert witnesses, is the second most common reason that individuals are wrongfully convicted. Today, courts have discretion over which expert testimony is admissible.
“Studies show that courts accept most forensic science and expert testimony without sufficient scrutiny, leaving significant room for imprecision and human error. This error leads to the high rate of wrongful convictions. Expert testimony that fails to rely on sound logic should not be considered in court.
Wiener’s office explained SB 467 “clarifies that the definition of false testimony includes opinions based on flawed scientific research or outdated technology that is now unreliable or moot, and opinions about which a reasonable scientific dispute has emerged regarding its validity.”
The measure would also clarify that “opinions that fail to use valid methodology, research, peer-reviewed studies, or scientifically sound data do not satisfy the requirements for admissible testimony.”
Those wrongfully convicted based on “unreliable” expert testimony could, under AB 467, seek post-conviction relief – this provision will help exonerate innocent people across California, claimed Wiener.
Recent studies from the National Academy of Science (NAS) and cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Itiel Dror have proven that fingerprint analysis, often part of expert witness testimony, is highly unreliable and subject to cognitive bias, said the author.
The measure uses the NAS to evaluate the so-called “CSI effect,” where jurors lean towards “unrealistic and preconceived notions about the availability and precision of forensic evidence in criminal trials” based on portrayals of expert witnesses in popular culture.
Wiener noted, “A shocking number of innocent people are sitting in our jails and prisons right now because of faulty ‘expert’ witness testimony. That’s why I’m continuing to fight for stronger standards for expert witness testimony.”
“The End Wrongful Convictions Act will get us closer to having a justice system that no longer relies on faulty or outdated science. No person should have to spend even one moment wrongfully incarcerated. That’s simply a miscarriage of justice. We can and will ensure that expert witness testimony actually relies on expertise,” Wiener argued.