Thursday, September 07, 2006

Forensics on trial: Chemical matching of bullets comes under fire

by team UAB, hjt

I wonder if this means that the FBI and others will now have to go back and reexamine cases is which a conviction was made solely based on the bullet lead chemical analysis. How do you get to be a forensic metallurgist?

In 1997, a jury convicted Michael Behm of murdering a man in South River, N.J. The only physical evidence linking Behm to the murder was bullet fragments from the crime scene. An FBI examiner testified in court that the fragments chemically matched bullets from a box of ammunition Behm had at his home.

Since that trial, a growing body of research has revealed that the practice of chemically matching bullets is seriously flawed. This February, a report released by the National Academies in Washington D.C. called on the FBI to revise its rules on interpreting data from chemical analyses of bullets and to limit how its examiners testify about such data in the courtroom. The FBI has used chemical analysis of bullets in some 2,500 investigations since the early 1980s. Among those, there were 500 cases in which the prosecution introduced such analyses as evidence during trials. But the story of bullet chemical analysis has even broader implications; it emphasizes the need to keep science honest, especially in the courtroom.


Anonymous said...

There should be criteria set on which cases should be reviewed. Then review the cases to see if the bullets were correctly proven.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't the vast production number of projectiles flaw the findings. Yes a bullet has the same make up as those in a suspect's home, but what about the thousand other bullets that were cast from the same vat?

Anonymous said...

Since there are serious flaws in the testing, this test should not be used in courts until the majority of the flaws are removed from the process.


Anonymous said...

Due the the evidence showing flaws in the analysis, I do not believe that any case should be solely determined on findings from chemical matching of bullet fragments. I also agree with DW in the fact that many bullets come from the same vat and end up in various bullet boxes.

Forensic Bloggers said...

for NW -
i agree that this type of evidence shouldn't be the sole evidence in a case.
Some techniques like this that sort of work might be useful to provide leads in an investigation, but shouldn't be presented to a jury as evidence.


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Hi Since there are serious flaws in the test, this test should not be used in the courts until most of the defects are removed in the process.

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I think questions about forensic science, fingerprint evidence and the assumption behind these disciplines have been brought to light in some publications, the latest being an article in the New York Post

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Elliott Broidy said...

Good points.

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