Forensic science is a cornerstone of today's television programs. The public has become more familiar with what these scientists do and how they complete their jobs. There is little doubt as to the positive aspects forensic science services provide. However, the application of forensic science causes controversy regarding the handling of the information and privacy concerns.
Pro: Exonerating the Innocent
The use of DNA evidence has resulted in overturning the sentences of 250 jury-convicted individuals in the United States, according the to Justice Project. Forensic science techniques and technology has rapidly advanced. These 250 individuals had been wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. The use of forensic science, specifically DNA testing, has helped earn many of these individuals freedom.
Pro: Identifying Individuals
Forensic science is used to help identify victims of crimes and victims of disasters. Using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process can make millions of copies of DNA from just a few skin cells. These DNA techniques can help tie criminals to a crime and victim. DNA is also used in disaster situations where bodies may not be able to be identified by other means. This allows the remains to go back to the rightful families and gives those families closure.
Con: Inconsistent Practices
Forensic science laboratories may not be run in the same manner. Cases involving unqualified practitioners, lax standards and the absence of quality control standards have plagued different laboratories within the United States. According to Senior Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards, in an audit of the Detroit police lab 10 percent of 200 random cases were determined to have sub-par quality control and shocking levels of incompetence. These inconsistent practices can lead to entire cases being thrown out, allowing the guilty to go free or to create erroneous data, which may convict the innocent.
Con: Privacy Concerns
The CODIS system holds DNA evidence from all convicted criminals and DNA evidence collected from crime scenes. DNA collected from crime scenes may contain DNA from innocent individuals who happened to be in the same location. Sensitive DNA information such as genetic diseases may be seen by police, forensic scientists and other individuals allowed to access the system, which is a breach of privacy. The CODIS system could possibly be compromised, allowing this sensitive information to be leaked.