CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Forensic Science Put Jimmy Genrich in Prison for 24 Years. What if It Wasn’t Science?"

From The Nation, via the NACDL news scan:

They sent the tools to a forensic analyst in Maryland named John O’Neil. The hope was that if O’Neil could match marks made by Genrich’s tools to marks found on recovered bomb fragments, they would have the physical evidence they needed to arrest him. Meanwhile, federal agents started openly tailing Genrich everywhere he went, blue jackets with yellow ATF letters flapping like neon signage.

By February 1992, nearly a year after the Valentine’s bomb, O’Neil said he had matched Genrich’s tools to all three bombs—plus an earlier, unexploded bomb from 1989, which had been found in the parking lot of the LaCourt Motor Lodge, right next door to the Two Rivers Convention Center.

. . .

In the early 1990s, few people challenged the foundations of forensic methods such as toolmark analysis. Since then, despite CSI-style portrayals of forensic analysts as crime-solving oracles, prominent scientists and criminal-justice experts have questioned many of the “pattern-matching” disciplines that rely on comparisons of bite marks, hairs, shoe prints, tire tracks, or fingerprints.

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