“Automatic” Justice? Is Technology Eliminating the Presumption of Innocence?

A recent legal research paper from the School of Law at Queen Mary University of London has raised the issue of technology’s impact upon the criminal justice system, and how its effect may be replacing presumption of innocence with presumption of guilt. A truly frightening prospect. You can download the paper here: Automatic justice? Technology, Crime and Social Control.

The nature of evidence in the justice system has steadily been evolving to be ever more founded in technology, be it legitimate and proven technology … or not. And the tendency is for the prosecution (and police) to say, “We have ‘scientific’ evidence of your guilt; therefore, you are guilty.”

And here’s the problem: much of this “technology” has not been verified and statistically validated. It just gets presented in court as “science,” and judges, lawyers, and juries don’t have a clue as to whether or not it’s actually accurate or relevant. How do you know the latest “computer app” is actually true and accurate? You don’t. We’ve seen frequent examples of so-called forensic “science” being proven wrong. Just three of these would be compositional analysis of bullet lead (CABL), microscopic hair comparison, and bite marks. There are currently thousands of cases under re-investigation as a result of scientifically flawed FBI hair comparison work and testimony. There are some infamous cases of fingerprint identifications being wrong; one of these being the case of Brandon Mayfield. Most people, (including lawyers) don’t understand that there is huge margin for error in locating a cell phone through cell towers.

The agents of the justice system – lawyers, judges, police, and especially juries – have been notoriously ignorant regarding the scientific, technological, and mathematical issues of evidence. This is why so much of the justice system depends upon so-called  “experts” to try to understand and explain what all the technology means; but, these experts, often self-styled, may be legitimate — or they may not be. Unfortunately the lawyers, judges, and juries have no way to tell. Defense attorneys will most commonly not technically question (cross examine) prosecution “experts.” This is too bad, because, in my opinion, a technically knowledgable and logically-penetrating defense attorney could just “take apart” many prosecution “experts” – even medical doctors. The typical legal defense strategy is to present “your own” expert, which puts the poor jury in the position of having to decide which of the dueling experts to believe. All this, unfortunately, leaves the justice system, and the defendant, at the mercy of “experts,” and there is no scientific way built into the justice system to sort through which “science” is true and correct, and which is junk – and which experts are truly expert, and which are charlatans.

From the conclusion of the paper: “Our deepest concern is the emergence of a potentially unfettered move towards a technologically driven process of ‘automatic criminal justice.’”

We – all of us – have a problem. The justice system was never conceived or designed to comprehend the explosion of technology. And the lawyers and judges are not trained or prepared to deal with it. It’s a problem.


2 responses to ““Automatic” Justice? Is Technology Eliminating the Presumption of Innocence?

  1. This case involves my mentally diagnosed daughter who was viciously attacked in Brklyn, NY 5yrs ago, in a nail salon .,.trying to defend herself the other person the aggressor was cut with a 3inc blade,.2weeks later,., precent called on phone made allegation that my daughter robbed a, lady or a man in same neighborhood., these cases went to court . corrosion and fear of continued jail and inadequate defense caused her to cop pleas to 3felonies and a 5yr 6months jail time.,., CUrrently Shannon is out on probation for 5yrs and has served 6months for a crime she didn’t ‘”robbery ” she didn’t commit and in the bridge program for substance abuse of marijuana all required of the probation.,. Her case was initially dismissed by a Judge and sealed bit reopened unlawfully without explanation in the time allowed by law or notice given for any of the secret indictments so therefore Shannon sidebof what really happened that day had never been heard by the sentencing Judge and the motions to dismiss or affidavit s in her behalf have never been allowed,. And I told the courts.,. I explained that my daughter is EDP mentally pyhcologically challenged don’t allow her to enter any pleas,. The Atty blessed me out told DA I get her to lead guilty forget atrial why make me work.,.niagated. the facts and circumstances and was also aware that Shannon was incapacitated,., a former law student herself,. Was now on a different course set by a system that ignored her justice and her as a victim ., Any Attys that can help me get her convictions UNDONE please let me know and I’m a single Mom of two,. And her Sister was a witness to the attack E-mail me . .I don’t have a million dallors to pay out,. Maybe a probono project for a law student or firm many civil rights were violated ad well ,

  2. Pingback: “Automatic” Justice? Is Technology Eliminating the Presumption of Innocence? | The Colder Case Series

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