With prosecutors relying more and more on forensics to obtain convictions, a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer must be well acquainted with not only the latest develops in the forensic sciences, but must have working relationships with experts of various forensic disciplines. Attorney Kevin J. Mahoney has worked with some of the very best forensic experts available, including Cyril Wecht, M.D. (regarded as the best pathologist in the country), Brian Pape, Ph.D. (perhaps the best toxicologist in the country), David Benjamin, Ph.D. (a nationally recognized pharmacologist/toxicologist), and Georgia Pasqualone, (a crime scene reconstructionist and medical expert growing in national stature).
When Mitt Romney was serving as Govenor of Massachusetts he wanted to re-institute the death penalty. Romney argued that the advancements in forensic techniques make it extremely unlikely that an innocent man could be convicted for a crime he did not commit.
How “sound” are forensic techniques? Can we say with assurance that crime lab experts, with no stake in the matter, provide us today with mistake free evidence? Hardly. In 1993, a jury convicted Christina Martin of 1st degree murder for poisoning the victim with LSD. Ms. Martin, at that time, was represented by another lawyer. Unfortunately for Ms. Martin, Commonwealth experts not only sat on super-reliable toxicology testing the exonerated her, but perjured themselves to obtain the conviction by misrepresenting unreliable toxicology testing that they themselves had discredited with further testing. It took Attorney Mahoney eight years to undo this injustice. The government’s forensic experts are part of the government team and many are team players.
Like other types of evidence, forensic evidence is not “black and white.” Instead, it is mostly grey, at times contradicted by competing testing methodologies, always at risk for collection inadequacies and contamination, and rarely free of conflicting interpretations. Testimony from a fingerprint “expert” is, for instance, nothing more than an educated guess by a police officer utilizing a standardless methodology – which is to say, no methodology at all.
Articles on various forensic specialties, investigatory techniques, and testing are included here as a public service. These articles are not dissertations, but pithy summaries. For a more complete description of the areas covered, readers should refer to the books and articles referenced at the end of each page.
Kevin J. Mahoney is a Cambridge, MA criminal defense lawyer, and author of Relentless Criminal Cross-Examination.