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11/25/2005 Archived Entry: ""Gunshot residue" might not be"

DO YOU REMEMBER THE GUILDFORD FOUR? They were the alleged IRA bombers who spent almost 16 years in prison based on the sloppiest (and crookedest) sort of evidence. One damning "fact" presented against them was that they had "traces of nitroglycerine" on their hands -- proof positive that they'd been handling explosives.

Only thing is, you can get nitroglycerine-like "traces" on your hands from all kinds of things -- including playing cards they may have been handling.

Well, here comes some related news on the shakiness of "expert" testimony in U.S. courts.

Turns out that "gunshot residue" may not be GSR at all. Or even if it is, it doesn't mean the person with the GSR on his hands ever even shot a gun.

In the wake of chronic evidence-fixing and errors in the FBI crime lab, total lack of standards in the ATF's firearm testing, and even revelations that that holy of holies, fingerprinting, isn't as reliable as its claims, it seems that honest prosecutors (are there any of those left?) should have a tougher job than they've had in these recent, conviction-happy years.

(Thank you to AZ for the GSR link.)

Posted by Claire @ 12:59 PM CST

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