Bad Science


Tainting Evidence


John F. Kelly and Phillip Wearne

© 1998 The Free Press

Look what reviewers are saying about TAINTING EVIDENCE

Washington Post/David Burnham

Because most of the critics have aimed their fire at the processing of individual cases brought in geographically dispersed jurisdictions over the last decade or so, however, the collective weight of these negative judgements has not been obvious. Tainting Evidence, a powerful new book by John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne, has now provided this disturbing perspective. The documented failures of the lab, they argue, are not isolated events. Rather, they are strong evidence of systematic rot.

Through extensive interviews, detailed analyses of the FBI’s forensic work in selected cases, and the intense mining of government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Kelly and Wearne persuasively argue that the lab has frequently failed to meet the scientific and ethical standards required of such an important institution. They further contend that when 
these problems have been disclosed, the agency’s typical response has been denial and coverup rather than meaningful corrective action. They finally assert that the recent remedial steps ordered by FBI Director Louis Freeh, largely as the result of Whitehurst’s very public disclosures, are not adequate.

Examing how well or poorly a powerful and secretive agency like the FBI performs its work is one of the most difficult and important tasks that any reporter can take on. Kelly and Wearne have met this difficult challenge, successfully documenting a shocking condition that should outrage every American concerned with justice.

From Publisher's Weekly:

The media has familiarized the public with the vocabulary of forensic science: DNA identification, fingerprinting, bomb signatures, etc.  However, as journalists Kelly and Wearne make clear in this expos of the FBI crime lab, some of these practices are dubious at best, and any of them is only as effective as the scientist behind it. 

The book was prompted by the complaints lodged against the bureau by FBI crime-lab scientist Fred Whitehurst, and the congressional inquiries that arose from his whistle-blowing. The problem Whitehurst identified is twofold. First, the bureau allegedly puts so much faith in its reputation that it refuses to submit to external certification even as it fails to maintain state-of-the-art labs. Second, the FBI lab is said to operate as a good-ol'-boy network, promoting unqualified agents and often taking direction from field investigators. 

Kelly and Wearne detail how the FBI crime lab's alleged arrogance and incompetence has, they say, affected the investigation of six high-profile cases, with apparent offenses ranging from laziness and bungling in the Unabomber, O.J. Simpson and Oklahoma City cases to possible perjury in the World Trade Center bombing case and conspiracy to withhold evidence in the investigation of the FBI assault on Ruby Ridge and a series of bomb attacks on federal judges in the late 1980s. 

Their book is painstakingly researched and highly detailed. This volume belongs on the reading list of any criminal defense attorney as a road map to the successful cross-examination of forensics experts.

a Pulitzer Prize.

Whether you are an attorney, forensic scientist, professor, or instructor can you afford to be without this book?

Autographed first edition copies of Tainting Evidence are now available direct from the authors for $20 plus $3.20 priority mail postage which represents an overall discount of 33%. Send checks or money orders to:

John Kelly
1832 Biltmore Street NW
Apt 35
Washington, D.C. 20009

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