bem público · economia · falhas de governo

CSI Economics

With 238,135 requests for latent fingerprint comparisons in 2002 alone, a false positive error rate of 2 percent implies up to 4,800 false convictions or guilty pleas made in hopes of a lighter sentence each year in the U.S., 1,700 of them in felony cases. (The number of improperly matched fingerprints is not completely clear. A 2005 study of fingerprint analysis suggests that the false positive rate may now be as low as 0.8 percent. But another recent study suggests it could exceed 4 percent.)Confronted with such statistics, policy makers usually call for greater oversight—that is, finding a governmental body to watch over forensics and make sure everyone does his or her job right. In the current climate, that certainly would help. But the core problem with modern forensics isn’t an absence of oversight. It’s monopoly. Once evidence goes to a given lab or facility, it is unlikely to be examined by any other lab or facility. That increases the chances that a mistake will slip through undetected.

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