New Book: Autopsy of a Crime Lab (Brandon Garrett)

Last month, the University of California Press released a new book by law professor Brandon Garrett, called Autopsy of a Crime Lab: Exposing the Flaws in Forensics. The description from the press is below. You can learn more about the book or purchase it by clicking here.

This book exposes the dangerously imperfect forensic evidence that we rely on for criminal convictions.

“That’s not my fingerprint, your honor,” said the defendant, after FBI experts reported a “100-percent identification.” They were wrong. It is shocking how often they are. Autopsy of a Crime Lab is the first book to catalog the sources of error and the faulty science behind a range of well-known forensic evidence, from fingerprints and firearms to forensic algorithms. In this devastating forensic takedown, noted legal expert Brandon L. Garrett poses the questions that should be asked in courtrooms every day: Where are the studies that validate the basic premises of widely accepted techniques such as fingerprinting? How can experts testify with 100 percent certainty about a fingerprint, when there is no such thing as a 100 percent match? Where is the quality control in the laboratories and at the crime scenes? Should we so readily adopt powerful new technologies like facial recognition software and rapid DNA machines? And why have judges been so reluctant to consider the weaknesses of so many long-accepted methods?

Taking us into the lives of the wrongfully convicted or nearly convicted, into crime labs rocked by scandal, and onto the front lines of promising reform efforts driven by professionals and researchers alike, Autopsy of a Crime Lab illustrates the persistence and perniciousness of shaky science and its well-meaning practitioners.

Innocence Network Scholarship – Deadline Extended

The submission deadline for the Innocence Network’s virtual research panel has been extended until Friday, February 12. You can submit your proposal for participation in the session and publication in an upcoming issue of the Wrongful Conviction Law Review. See the attached image for more details!

Wrongful Convictions Law Review – Issue 3 Now Available!

Issue 3 of the Wrongful Convictions Law Review is now available. It is open-access, free for anyone interested. The included articles are listed below and you can find links to the full issue by clicking here. Issues 1 and 2 are available under Table of Contents > Archives.

“Addressing Official Misconduct: Increasing Accountability in Reducing Wrongful Convictions” (by Clayton B. Drummond and Mai Naito Mills)

“The Right to Silence and the Pendulum Swing: Variations in Canadian and Scottish Criminal Law” (by Kathryn M. Campbell)

“Unintelligent Decision-Making? The Impact of Discovery on Defendant Plea Decisions” (by Samantha Luna and Allison D. Redlich)

“Dead Wrong: Capital Punishment, Wrongful Convictions, and Serious Mental Illness” (Student Paper Gold Prize Winner, by Alexis E. Carl)

“Book Review: Smoke but No Fire by Jessica Henry” (by Christopher Sherrin)

Wrongful Convictions Law Review – Issue 2 Now Available

Issue 2 of the newly-launched Wrongful Convictions Law Review, featuring papers from the 2020 Innocence Network Conference, is now available! You can see the full list of articles below and get full access to all of the articles by clicking here.

Wrongful Convictions Law Review – Volume 1, Issue 2

  • “Injustice Anywhere: An Introduction to the 2020 Innocence Network Conference Papers” (Stephanie Roberts Hartung)
  • “Do Racial Stereotypes Contribute to Medical Misdiagnosis of Child Abuse?” (Cynthia Najdowski, Kimberly Bernstein, and Katherine Wahrer)
  • “Identifying and Charging True Perpetrators in Cases of Wrongful Convictions” (Jennifer Weintraub and Kimberly Bernstein)
  • “They Open the Door, Kick You Out, and Say, ‘Go'” (Amy Shlosberg, Jordan Nowotny, Elizabeth Panuccio, and Valli Rajah)
  • “Innocence and Prevention” (James Doyle)

The Wrongful Convictions Law Review – Now Available!

The inaugural issue of the Wrongful Convictions Law Review, a peer-reviewed law review dedicated to innocence scholarship, case commentaries, and book reviews, is now available for free online.

The table of contents for Issue 1 is below. You can access the full text of the issue here or access individual articles by clicking on the titles below.

Foreword – The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin (Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Canada)


Thirty Years of Innocence: Wrongful Convictions and Exonerations in the United States, 1989-2018 (R. J. Norris, J. R. Acker, C. L. Bonventre, & A. D. Redlich)

Dealing with DNA Evidence in the Courtroom: A Plain English Review of Current Issues with Identification, Mixture and Activity Level Evidence (L. Weathered, K. Wright, & J. Chaseling)

Prosecutorial Involvement in Exoneration: An Exploratory Analysis of Individual, Organizational, and Environmental Factors (R. A. Bowman & J. B. Gould)

Unveiling Wrongful Convictions Between the U. S. and Italy: Cross-Learning from Each Other’s Mistakes(L. Luparia & C. Greco)

Edwin Borchard’s Innocence Project: The Origin and Legacy of His Innocence Conviction Scholarship (M. Zalman)

Book Review

Miscarriages of Justice in Canada: Causes, Responses, Remedies, by Kathryn M. Campbell (J. Freedman)

New Article on Prosecutors and Exonerations

In a new article published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Elizabeth Webster examines the role of prosecutors in exonerations. The citation and abstract are posted below, and you can check out the article here.

Webster, Elizabeth. “The Prosecutor as a Final Safeguard Against False Convictions: How Prosecutors Assist with Exoneration.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 110, no. 2 (2020): 245-305.

Prosecutors have helped secure an unprecedented number of recent exonerations. This development, combined with the rapid emergence of district attorney-initiated conviction integrity units (CIUs) raises several questions. How do prosecutors’ offices review postconviction innocence claims? How do they make decisions about the merits of those claims? How do CIU processes differ from non-CIU processes? This study examines the circumstances surrounding prosecutor-assisted exoneration cases through semi-structured interviews with 20 prosecutors and 19 defense attorneys. It draws from a sample of both CIU and non-CIU prosecutors, thereby enabling comparisons. Respondents were asked about their experiences and decision-making structures in specific, post-2005 exoneration cases as well as their impressions of postconviction practices more broadly. Their responses revealed the salience of office hierarchies and appellate principles for prosecutors’ postconviction discretion. Unlike earlier stages—such as charging and plea bargaining—few decisions appear to be delegated to the line prosecutor in the postconviction stage. Therefore, I incorporate organizational accident theory to understand key decisions, such as which prosecutor should be tasked with reviewing innocence claims, how to screen claims, and how to decide the outcome of an innocence claim. I find that prosecutors work within a system that emphasizes procedural errors over factual ones and that allows for a narrow and belated discovery of false convictions. Thus, prosecutors’ postconviction efforts do not appear likely to create a new pathway to exoneration for pro se defendants, or to identify false convictions that have not already been discovered by trusted defense attorneys, innocence organizations, and/or journalists. Although most prosecutors described processes that could reliably facilitate unbiased case review and reinvestigation, these processes were reserved for only the most extraordinary of innocence claims. The significance of this research for policy (in the crafting of legislation and court rules) and practice (in the processing of innocence claims through prosecutors’ offices) is discussed.