Last night’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” unmasked many important and shocking details about the complex world of forensic science. It also proved that the Olsen twins conspiracy has entered its most vital stage and gave us a “CSI” spin-off we could only dream of before.
Oliver shed light on the notable intricacies involved in actual forensic science, urging television audiences to combat the inaccurate accounts they’ve seen on shows like “CSI” and “NCIS.” As it turns out, fictional detective agencies have been portraying forensic science as much more accurate than it actually is.
The statistic that began the segment recalled cases that used forensic evidence for a conviction from the 1970s up to 1999, when DNA evidence became the golden standard. According to The Innocence Project, in 268 cases where FBI hair analysis has led to a conviction, 257 of those cases had errors in analysis while nine of those defendants had already been executed. Oliver even goes as far as to showcase Santae Tribble, a man wrongly convicted of homicide, whose matching strand of hair turned out to have belonged to a dog.
The investigative journalism shown in last night’s episode rules evidence like bite mark analysis and fingerprint recognition to be certified bologna. These misconceptions not only hurt the reality of “Law and Order” storylines, but call upon scientifically illiterate judges to make decisions they aren’t entitled to make.
To demonstrate how flawed society’s views of forensic science actually are, “Last Week Tonight” produced a scientifically accurate episode of “CSI,” entitled “Crime Scene Idiot,” starring Josh Charles, Josh Lucas, Samira Wiley, Shannon Woodward, and Robert John Burke. Check out the full clip below.