Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Open the flood gates?

This from forensic mag: "... Our scientific understandings have improved in recent years, and the effect of that has to be to say, 'We've got some innocent people who've been declared guilty based on misunderstandings,'" said John Hall, director of analysis and research for the National Fire Protection Association.

For example, decades ago, it was common for investigators to conclude an accelerant like gasoline was used if a fire burned particularly hot. In fact, the new arson science has found no such correlation, experts say. Another mistaken assumption: A V-shaped pattern on a wall of a burned building is proof of arson. All it shows is where a fire started.

One of the biggest arson cases to come under attack is that of Cameron Todd Willingham, convicted in a 1991 fire in Texas that killed his three daughters. He was executed in 2004. But some experts since then have testified that the blaze was probably accidental ..."

This story begs the obvious question, as science changes / evolves, do we necessarily re-examine our work in prior cases? Who makes that call? It's an interesting article.


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