Segments in this Video

Crime Scene Investigations (03:36)

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Det. Joanna Grivetti leads the investigative unit for the Richmond, California police department. In 2004, a series of explosions occurred in Madrid; authorities found partial fingerprints on several bags of detonators. An FBI examiner determined a print matched one from Brandon Mayfield.

Fingerprint Identification (02:42)

There is no scientific basis for the claim that no two fingerprints are alike; the standard of comparison varies between laboratories and examiners. Ken Moses explains how he decides a match for a partial print.

Bombing Suspect (02:39)

Mayfield believed his Muslim affiliation led to his arrest for the Madrid subway bombings. Three examiners at Quantico testified the partial fingerprint was a 100% match to Mayfield's; Moses confirmed the claim.

Fingerprint Mistakes (04:55)

Spanish authorities matched the latent print to an Algerian; Moses recalls his reaction. Jennifer Mnookin leads a study on fingerprint identification. The examiner can be influenced by unconscious bias; Dr. Itiel Dror demonstrates the strength of this bias.

Fingerprint Infallibility (03:13)

The FBI no longer testifies that fingerprint identification is 100% positive. Scott Burns believes experts are right most of the time and the Mayfield case was an anomaly; Dror contradicts the statements. Judge Harry Edwards says courts have been misled about error rates for many years.

Crime Scene Evidence (02:52)

Det. Grivetti responds to a homicide and her team locates a hollow point bullet. The National Academy of Sciences concluded that many forensic sciences do not meet fundamental requirements of science.

Bite Mark and DNA Analysis (04:47)

The National Academy of Sciences found this discipline produced a high percentage of false positives. Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were convicted of murder in separate incidents, based on bite mark testimony.

Odor Analysis (08:25)

Casey Anthony was charged with the murder of her daughter Caylee. The prosecution developed a theory after a smell was found in Casey's car. Experts debate the use of odor evidence in court and the need for scientific underpinning.

Casey Anthony Trial (04:38)

Thirty-seven expert witnesses in over a dozen forensic disciplines testified and the defense team challenged many of them; see news clips of the trial. Dr. Cyril Wecht discusses the fascination with forensic science. Judges determine expert testimony.

Forensic Science Organizations (04:34)

The American College of Forensic Examiners International offers over a dozen credentials; Leah Bartos learned what it takes to become certified. The National Academy of Sciences report states some organizations lack stringent requirements. Robert O'Block defends ACFEI's reputation; John Bridges quit because of organizational behavior.

Certification for Expert Testimony? (04:16)

Wecht agrees the test failure rate at ACFEI is too low and that verbiage regarding certification could be changed. Linda Duncan contradicts Wecht's claims that the certification does not validate expertise. Experts agree there is no way to tell what certifications means.

Murder Charges Dismissed (01:42)

DNA testing exonerated Brooks and Brewer after they spent over 12 years in prison. Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West declined interviews; Hayne is suing the Innocence Project.

Trial Verdict and Forensic Evidence (02:02)

Casey Anthony was found not guilty of the murder of her daughter and released. Experts discuss the validity and need for forensic science, and evidence testimony.

Credits: The Real "CSI" (01:08)

Credits: The Real "CSI"

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The Real "CSI"


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Description

From the courtroom to the living room (thanks to the hit television series CSI), forensic science is king. Expertise on fingerprints, ballistics and bite mark analysis are routinely called on to solve the most difficult criminal cases—and to put the guilty behind bars. But how reliable is the science behind forensics? A FRONTLINE investigation finds serious flaws in some of the best-known tools of forensic science and wide inconsistencies in how forensic evidence is presented in the courtroom. From the sensational murder trial of Casey Anthony and the FBI's botched investigation of the Madrid terrorist bombing to capital cases in rural Mississippi, FRONTLINE documents how a field with few uniform standards and unproven science can undermine the search for justice. As part of the investigative series Post Mortem, Correspondent Lowell Bergman reports in a joint investigation with ProPublica and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL151243

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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