From blood-stain pattern to bite mark analysis, there are a wide variety
of techniques forensic scientists use to convince the jury and judge to
rule against a defendant. In fact, scientific evidence has become instrumental
in many criminal trials.
However, what has been held as sure-fire proof of guilt has come into question
in recent years. According to an episode of
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver which aired in October 2017, Oliver claims that even though not all forensic
science is inaccurate, juries and courts are often guilty of heavily relying
on such “evidence” to determine a defendant’s fate.
For example, forensic experts commonly use the phrase “to a reasonable
degree of scientific certainty” in court to claim their findings
are correct, which was depicted in a montage from various courtrooms where
the saying was repeated over and over again.
Additionally, the host claims not all DNA tests are created equal since
DNA could easily be passed from one place/person to another. He said that
even experts can’t sometimes tell the difference between two people
who have similar fingerprints.
What is the Texas Junk Science Law?
Due to the uncertainty surrounding forensic science, state legislators
drafted and approved the Texas Junk Science Law (SB 344) in 2013. This
allows current Texas prisoners--even those who are on death row--to challenge
their convictions if they were based on “junk science.”
In actuality, this law amended the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure by
expanding a prisoner’s right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus
due to scientific evidence. This type of writ helps to figure out if an
individual’s imprisonment is valid or whether he/she has the right
The following facts must be present to apply for a writ of habeas corpus:
- The prisoner has current, relevant scientific evidence which wasn’t
available when he/she was convicted.
- Such evidence would be admissible when the original trial took place according
to Texas law.
- If such evidence was available at the original trial, the prisoner would
not have been found guilty
Essentially, there are two ways a prisoner can apply for a writ of habeas
corpus based on scientific evidence: providing new types of scientific
evidence which wasn’t available when the trial first occurred and
to use new scientific evidence to show the scientific evidence used in
the original trial was inaccurate. Before this law was enacted, prisoners
found it difficult to obtain a writ of habeas corpus, despite having new
scientific evidence to prove their innocence.
If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, our
College Station criminal defense lawyer at
The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. can determine whether the scientific evidence against you is valid or
not. Moreover, we could collect our own evidence and create an effective
defense plan to protect your rights and future.
For more information about the state’s junk science law,
contact us and schedule a free consultation today.