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Ballistics testimony; a practice contributing to wrongful convictions

A man was shot. Police found a gun inside the yard of a nearby home. A lab tested the gun and compared the grooves and scratches of its interior to the casings found at the crime scene. According to the examiner, the gun conclusively matched “to the exclusion of every other firearm in the world.” End of story. Guilty verdict.

But how is this possible? Is it without a doubt that the casings didn’t come from another gun?

It’s not, but sadly forensic examiners for years have been able to say that “close but not identical ballistic markings” are in fact conclusive. Countless juries have been told that something is a match without also being told the percentage of uncertainty.

The New York Times recently profiled a story about this common practice-one that has contributed to wrongful convictions all across the country.

The Times article pointed out a 2009 finding by the National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit organization that conducts research in science and technology. In a nutshell, the NSA basically concluded that there is no single forensic method utilized today that can link evidence to an individual with a high degree of certainty. Whether it’s linking footprints to a person’s shoe or a shell casing to a gun.

Since then, pattern evidence has been closely scrutinized.

In May 2015, a $30 million grant by NIST was given to a team of statisticians and legal professionals tasked with analyzing matches to determine the likelihood of, for instance, a hair sample to that of another individual or bite mark to that of another person’s teeth.

Almost a year later, the team is still at work. Researchers are putting together an enormous database to house the countless images need to conduct the analysis.

They hope that examiners will be able to eventually come up with a similarity ratio to provide to juries. However, it remains to be seen how it will work and for what patterns. But when lives are on the line, it’s worth pursuing.

By |2020-07-09T22:53:50+00:00March 15th, 2016|Criminal Defense|

TESTIMONIALS

The moment finally came when I saw Jay walk down the stairs in the court room, he flashed me a thumbs up and I knew… I knew I won.

If you need a lawyer do not hesitate to call Houston & Alexander. There is no one that will represent you better anywhere in Chattanooga. I wholeheartedly give them five stars.

– Antonio

I had hired another law firm and they were getting nowhere with my case. I was charged with multiple offense DUIs and other charges. I was not sure where to turn and called Houston and Alexander. Johnny Houston went the EXTRA MILE for me! The other law firm had negotiated a sentence that may have made me lose my house, my kids…everything. Johnny was not only able to get my charges reduced but also the sentence net result was I was able to keep my family together.

-Colleen

We’ve been clients of Houston & Alexander for three years, with Bret Alexander representing us during that time. I can’t speak highly enough of his integrity, professionalism, and his dedication to our legal needs. We are so grateful for his guidance and effectiveness through such a difficult time. He’s an attorney you can trust and depend on to do the right thing. We are sincerely so grateful. Thank You!

– Trish

I am a Desert Storm veteran and found myself in need of legal counsel. Everyone from the receptionist to the attorney himself treated me with the utmost respect and dignity. I found them to be knowledgeable and most helpful. I would recommend Houston and Alexander for all your legal needs. Thank you for all of your help.

– C Pugh

I won’t go into specifics because they are very embarrassing for my family. But if you have a daughter who has been criminally charged with a serious charge, Johnny Houston should be your go-to gentleman. Because of his hard work, and diligence in our case, we can once again hold our heads High and consider this a lesson learned. Thank you Johnny Houston from the bottom of our hearts!

-Karen A.

My son made a couple of mistakes and was faced with having a criminal record. Mr. Houston stepped in and provided us with excellent representation. My son will NOT have a record now and is looking forward to the future. I also can’t say enough about the staff at Houston & Alexander. Always responsive and informative and really went the extra mile. I cannot recommend them enough!

– Alice

Due the stress of this pandemic and the loss of employment, my wife and I got into an argument and I ended up getting arrested and charged with domestic violence. I could not go home, could not have any contact with my wife and had no place to live. An elected official/friend referred me to Johnny Houston and his law firm. Due to Johnny’s efforts, not only did we get into court quickly, but all charges were dismissed. We are back together now and I am getting this expunged. Thank you, Johnny!

– Client

I had too much to drink one night and backed into another car. I was charged with second offense DUI and felony reckless endangerment. I was at a real low point in my life and my husband had recently passed away. Johnny was able to get the felonies dismissed and I pled guilty to a first offense. Instead of facing significant jail time and a felony, I did a few days in jail and wore an alcohol monitor. Johnny was able to humanize me with the DA and I was able to get my life back on track again. Great law firm! You would be crazy to go anywhere else.

– Karen M.

I am a college student. I was involved in a wreck and was charged with DUI and leaving the scene. I thought I was ok to drive but my blood result said otherwise. A DUI conviction would have really hurt my chances of getting a good job. Johnny and Bret told me I had a difficult case and the only guarantee they gave was that they would work hard for me. They NEVER gave up on my case and ultimately persuaded the arresting officer and the DA to reduce the charge. If YOU need help on a DUI or any other case, call them! These men are not only hard working but kind.

– Kate

I had hired another law firm and they were getting nowhere with my case. I was charged with multiple offense DUI and other charges. Johnny Houston went the EXTRA MILE for me! The other law firm had negotiated a sentence that may have made me lose my house, my kids…everything. Johnny was not only able to get my charges reduced but also the sentence . I kept my house and my family intact! I have turned my life around and things are great! Johnny did not forget about me once the case was over, either. I needed some additional help with my license and Johnny jumped right on it.

– Colleen

Johnny and Bret took my case and treated me like a person, not a number. I was looking at a long prison sentence (10+ years). These guys stepped in, calmed me down and told me that they were going to be there for me. When you first walk in their office, you have that at home-feeling. With Mrs Wanda, a very welcoming atmosphere. They really treat you like family here. I would recommend Mr Houston and Mr Alexander to anyone who needs their service. You will not go wrong with these guys. THEY KNOW THE LAW!!!!

– WARDELL

We were from out of town and had no friends or family in the area. Things got out of control and the next morning we were arrested and charged with Felonies. In my opinion we were over charged. We called Johny and he agreed to meet with us right away. Johnny was attentive and listened. Facing possible jail time and the loss of my husband,s job we were terrified. Johnny literally rescued us! Hetook the lead, met with the DA and the alleged victim and really smoothed things over. Johnny was confident and appeared to get along well with the Prosecutors and Judges. We were very fortunate to find Johnny.

– Tana

TESTIMONIALS

The moment finally came when I saw Jay walk down the stairs in the court room, he flashed me a thumbs up and I knew… I knew I won.

If you need a lawyer do not hesitate to call Houston & Alexander. There is no one that will represent you better anywhere in Chattanooga. I wholeheartedly give them five stars.

– Antonio

I had hired another law firm and they were getting nowhere with my case. I was charged with multiple offense DUIs and other charges. I was not sure where to turn and called Houston and Alexander. Johnny Houston went the EXTRA MILE for me! The other law firm had negotiated a sentence that may have made me lose my house, my kids…everything. Johnny was not only able to get my charges reduced but also the sentence net result was I was able to keep my family together.

-Colleen

We’ve been clients of Houston & Alexander for three years, with Bret Alexander representing us during that time. I can’t speak highly enough of his integrity, professionalism, and his dedication to our legal needs. We are so grateful for his guidance and effectiveness through such a difficult time. He’s an attorney you can trust and depend on to do the right thing. We are sincerely so grateful. Thank You!

– Trish

I am a Desert Storm veteran and found myself in need of legal counsel. Everyone from the receptionist to the attorney himself treated me with the utmost respect and dignity. I found them to be knowledgeable and most helpful. I would recommend Houston and Alexander for all your legal needs. Thank you for all of your help.

– C Pugh

I won’t go into specifics because they are very embarrassing for my family. But if you have a daughter who has been criminally charged with a serious charge, Johnny Houston should be your go-to gentleman. Because of his hard work, and diligence in our case, we can once again hold our heads High and consider this a lesson learned. Thank you Johnny Houston from the bottom of our hearts!

-Karen A.

My son made a couple of mistakes and was faced with having a criminal record. Mr. Houston stepped in and provided us with excellent representation. My son will NOT have a record now and is looking forward to the future. I also can’t say enough about the staff at Houston & Alexander. Always responsive and informative and really went the extra mile. I cannot recommend them enough!

– Alice

Due the stress of this pandemic and the loss of employment, my wife and I got into an argument and I ended up getting arrested and charged with domestic violence. I could not go home, could not have any contact with my wife and had no place to live. An elected official/friend referred me to Johnny Houston and his law firm. Due to Johnny’s efforts, not only did we get into court quickly, but all charges were dismissed. We are back together now and I am getting this expunged. Thank you, Johnny!

– Client

I had too much to drink one night and backed into another car. I was charged with second offense DUI and felony reckless endangerment. I was at a real low point in my life and my husband had recently passed away. Johnny was able to get the felonies dismissed and I pled guilty to a first offense. Instead of facing significant jail time and a felony, I did a few days in jail and wore an alcohol monitor. Johnny was able to humanize me with the DA and I was able to get my life back on track again. Great law firm! You would be crazy to go anywhere else.

– Karen M.

I am a college student. I was involved in a wreck and was charged with DUI and leaving the scene. I thought I was ok to drive but my blood result said otherwise. A DUI conviction would have really hurt my chances of getting a good job. Johnny and Bret told me I had a difficult case and the only guarantee they gave was that they would work hard for me. They NEVER gave up on my case and ultimately persuaded the arresting officer and the DA to reduce the charge. If YOU need help on a DUI or any other case, call them! These men are not only hard working but kind.

– Kate

I had hired another law firm and they were getting nowhere with my case. I was charged with multiple offense DUI and other charges. Johnny Houston went the EXTRA MILE for me! The other law firm had negotiated a sentence that may have made me lose my house, my kids…everything. Johnny was not only able to get my charges reduced but also the sentence . I kept my house and my family intact! I have turned my life around and things are great! Johnny did not forget about me once the case was over, either. I needed some additional help with my license and Johnny jumped right on it.

– Colleen

Johnny and Bret took my case and treated me like a person, not a number. I was looking at a long prison sentence (10+ years). These guys stepped in, calmed me down and told me that they were going to be there for me. When you first walk in their office, you have that at home-feeling. With Mrs Wanda, a very welcoming atmosphere. They really treat you like family here. I would recommend Mr Houston and Mr Alexander to anyone who needs their service. You will not go wrong with these guys. THEY KNOW THE LAW!!!!

– WARDELL

We were from out of town and had no friends or family in the area. Things got out of control and the next morning we were arrested and charged with Felonies. In my opinion we were over charged. We called Johny and he agreed to meet with us right away. Johnny was attentive and listened. Facing possible jail time and the loss of my husband,s job we were terrified. Johnny literally rescued us! Hetook the lead, met with the DA and the alleged victim and really smoothed things over. Johnny was confident and appeared to get along well with the Prosecutors and Judges. We were very fortunate to find Johnny.

– Tana

View our reviews online.

View our reviews online.

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