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Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science Hardcover – September 3, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"David Harris, the nation's leading expert on racial profiling, turns his attention in this timely book to exposing the flaws in three standard investigative techniques used to solve crimes: interrogations, eyewitness identifications, and forensic science. In clear, accessible language, he shows how these flaws can lead juries to convict innocent individuals. He also discusses why those in the best position to address these flaws are likely to resist reform. A must-read for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the criminal justice system."-Cynthia Lee,Charles Kennedy Poe Research Professor of Law, George Washington University

"Primarily intended for those in law enforcement, forensic science, and the legal fields, this book details potential pitfalls of the way investigative work is conducted and suggests new alternatives."-Library Journal

"Written in a crisp and engaging style, free of legal and scientific jargon."-UTNE

"Failed Evidence is a masterful expose of both the flaws in our criminal justice system and the reasons many police and prosecutors are unwilling to correct them. If real change is to occur, would-be reformers need to ingest this book. Its prescriptions, all based on the latest scientific findings, would go a long way toward eliminating wrongful convictions and ensuring accurate verdicts." -Christopher Slobogin,Vanderbilt University Law School

"Overall, the book serves as a vital resource for those seeking to overcome the system's reliance on failed evidence by identifying sources of the problem and suggesting both quick and long-term remedies. It will help ensure the adoption of evidence-based methods that can achieve more accurate results in the nation's criminal justice system."-Tony Bornstein,The Champion

"For readers interesting in the phenomenon of unwarranted skepticism toward science, the book's chief value lies in Harris' detailed account of social and psychological factors that cause police and prosecutors to resist science-based reforms."- Science

"This book should be required reading for every potential juror."-Post-Gazette

“Wrongful convictions are the worst error the American criminal justice system can make. And yet in the last two decades we have learned both that we regularly convict the innocent and that, as a result of empirical advances in the social sciences, we now know what reforms are necessary to substantially decrease the risk of wrongful conviction. David Harris’s well-written and engaging book, Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science, brilliantly synthesizes this research and its implications, astutely connecting the dots from the reasons why wrongful convictions occur to the solutions necessary to prevent them. If there is one book that I would recommend to policymakers, criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors, police or the members of the general public about the subject of wrongful conviction, it is Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science. This first rate book is brimming with insight and intelligence.”-Richard A. Leo,University of San Francisco

About the Author

David A. Harris is Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Good Cops: The Case for Preventive Policing and Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work. He lives in Pittsburgh. 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 269 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (September 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814790550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814790557
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #640,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Robert Wm Shomer on May 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Over the last 30 years I have testified as an expert in eyewitness identification in over 1000 trials in 21 states.
I have often wondered why competent, profession law enforcement officers are so resistant to bringing their identification practices in line with the very large body of scientific knowledge in the area of eyewitness identification. Even in jurisdictions where the policies and procedures have been changed, police officers often continue to resist conducting valid identification procedures.
The attitude of many police officers, who do not get the training they should have in eyewitness identification, is to hand off a problematic eyewitness identification case to the prosecutors and they will sort it out. The prosecutor's attitude is that since the police obtained a positive identification the case should be tried.
This book identifies many of the sources of the problems in this unfortunate situation.
Robert Wm. Shomer
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The 1st half the book is good with lots of good examples and compelling evidence. The 2nd half of the book becomes dry and repetitious as he discusses changes that should apply. Many of these are a reiteration of what was mentioned in earlier chapters, now in lists of actions to be taken. Maybe this style is appropriate for the target audience, I stopped reading it at this point.
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Format: Hardcover
Readers of Failed Evidence will recognize some valid arguments about the pressing need for reform. Judges, prosecutors and police need to have scientifically valid forensic results(like DNA) to arrest and sentence people with. Not questionable junk science, like bite mark evidence or death smell evidence which was introduced in the Casey Anthony murder trial. If Judges and jurors are not made aware of the dubious nature of this unscientifically validated evidence is it any wonder our justice system is broken?

Failed Evidence supports reform that could rigorously test forensic science techniques to see if they actually worked. Another key reform from David Harris's book and one widely endorsed by experts, would be to establish enforceable standards and set up a mandatory certification and accreditation process for forensic science professionals and labs.

This book is a companion to the "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward" book. Three years ago, the influential National Academy of Sciences released a scathing report broadly condemning the work of criminal labs in the U.S. Too often, the report found, forensic labs do subpar work and rely on unproven techniques such as analyzing bite marks or examining the markings on a bullet.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book touches the underlying challenges that we as a society face in evaluating evidence and that most clearly challenges law enforcement to look at their prejudices and resistance to re-evaluation of long held beliefs and assumptions relating to the efficacy of police procedure. This results in police and prosecutor rejection of opportunities to apply quality control that we expect in most professions to police work.
Although a book oriented at technical processes, it is none-the-less at least for me a gripping story.
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Format: Hardcover
Ever wondered what happens behind the closed door of a police interrogation? You might be shocked to learn. Not only that, you might be shocked to learn there is scientific proof that our criminal justice system can make easy changes to help catch more guilty people and at the same time decrease the chance of convicting an innocent person. In this book Harris goes into scientific studies that show how we can things better and convict less innocent people. Changes that can be made to police interrogation, eye witness identification procedures, questionable forensic science techniques. These changes however require changing the mentality of many players in the system and sometimes challenge the "way we've always done it" mentality. Because of this and other forces at play, that Harris covers, law enforcement resists change that is proven to make the system better.

The book is an easy and informative read best suited for policymakers, scientists, advocates, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, defense attorneys, and anyone with a general interest in the American criminal justice system. Truth be told, anyone who might find themselves sitting in the chair of a juror should read Harris' book before sitting in judgment of fellow man.
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Format: Hardcover
My non-fiction book club LOVED discussing Failed Evidence. Of course, everyone wanted to talk about the exoneration stories, but then people moved-on to talking about their own experiences with traffic court and jury duty, and other court situations and how this book really opened their eyes about criminal cases. None of us have ever known anyone who confessed to a crime that he didn't commit, but the book told exactly how and why that happens and had numerous true examples of it. We were so disappointed to learn about the problems with fingerprint reading and line-ups because we all thought those were supposed to be tried and true. In fact, neither one is a very reliable method of positively identifying a criminal. What we really liked about the book were its lists of recommendations: Five Changes Needed to Minimize the Chances of False Confessions, Four Basic Changes for Eyewitness Identifications, etc... because those were the parts of the book that made us think about what we could do in the way of community activism. One simple recommendation was that police interrogations need to be recorded so that both the defense and the prosecution can use them. Otherwise, the police only pass along the parts that a prosecutor will use. (Some places already record them, but we don't know if our city police do.) After the discussion, I discovered that this author is available to Skype with book clubs. We would definitely have arranged that if we'd known about it. His writing style is very quick and interesting, so he must be really good in conversation.Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science
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