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This paper says I'm an expert.
April 17, 2012 11:10 AM   Subscribe

"No forensic background, no problem." A journalism student pays her fee and gets credentialed by the AFCEI (American College of Forensic Examiners International). "Wecht [the official spokesperson for the AFCEI] also dismissed the notion that the group’s use of “college” in its name could be misleading. “That’s a play on words,” he said. “Nobody believes for one moment that it is a real college.” ... Under state and federal rules of evidence, judges decide whether prospective expert witnesses can testify, but they sometimes rely heavily on the titles and letters around someone’s name. “Credentials are often appealing shortcuts,” Michigan circuit court judge Donald Shelton said. Fancy titles can have a disproportionate effect on juries, he added. “Jurors have no way of knowing that this certifying body, whether it’s this one or any other one, exacts scientific standards or is just a diploma mill.”"
posted by sio42 (47 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well then, let's see the forensic evidence that supports the argument that no one believes for one moment this is a real college.
posted by spicynuts at 11:14 AM on April 17, 2012


It's interesting to ponder just what percentage of our population is primarily involved in the direct misleading of other people. I suppose all of us are to a lesser degree, but what if it's your vocation?

Never mind whether they can sleep at night -- how do they know what's really real?
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:18 AM on April 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's an incredibly minor point but there have to be hundreds of professional organizations that follow the naming format "American College of ___________". Many of which truly are prestigious and are committed to important work.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:22 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate. "
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


And of course their graduates include Dr. Steven Hayne.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2012


yes, 2bucksplus, that's why crap like this is bullshit....it degrades the meaning of the words.
posted by spicynuts at 11:23 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never mind whether they can sleep at night -- how do they know what's really real?

Well, is the top still spinning?
posted by theodolite at 11:24 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to ponder just what percentage of our population is primarily involved in the direct misleading of other people.

You mean you want us to put... Water, on the plants?
posted by thewalrus at 11:24 AM on April 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


What on earth does he think the phrase "play on words" means?
posted by jeudi at 11:25 AM on April 17, 2012


“That’s a play on words,” he said.

Cleese: I understand this IS Bolton.
Palin: (still with the fake mustache) Yes?
Cleese: You told me it was Ipswich!
Palin: ...It was a pun.
posted by tomcooke at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Jurors have no way of knowing that this certifying body, whether it’s this one or any other one, exacts scientific standards or is just a diploma mill."

I'm not saying shoddy forensic science isn't a big problem, but this kind of thing is a big reason we have cross-examination. Even if a judge lets a questionable expert on the stand, the other side is free to poke holes in his or her credentials and experience.
posted by jedicus at 11:32 AM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's interesting to ponder just what percentage of our population is primarily involved in the direct misleading of other people.

Hey now, there really is candy in my van.
posted by Blue Meanie at 11:34 AM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did someone say Diploma Mill? Yes, that's the company name.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:36 AM on April 17, 2012


Gather 'round and I'll sing you a sad tale: The Fire at the Old Diploma Mill
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:41 AM on April 17, 2012


“Jurors have no way of knowing that this certifying body, whether it’s this one or any other one, exacts scientific standards or is just a diploma mill.”

That's why opposing counsel is supposed to check the credentials of expert witnesses. We have an adversarial system. Opposing counsel is supposed to oppose the expert based on a motion in limine for the purposes of excluding unqualified expert testimony. Its called a Daubert motion in federal court.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:42 AM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Never mind whether they can sleep at night -- how do they know what's really real?

I await the day when Holographic Expert Witness is testifying before Holographic Jury.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:47 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Arson investigation is also like this; you can basically apprentice to someone that's been doing it for a while and learn how to use your gut to decide what caused a fire or you can do a correspondence course and get a shiny badge that lets you ignore science!

THe prosecution's expert witness was pretty well demolished in this case, but the guy was still put to death.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:50 AM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower: "I await the day when Holographic Expert Witness is testifying before Holographic Jury."

For Thought Crime; Thinking about a copyrighted work. Unlicensed storage of information.
posted by dejah420 at 11:51 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if a judge lets a questionable expert on the stand, the other side is free to poke holes in his or her credentials and experience.

This is kind of boggling to me too. The few times I've been involved, there's been a substantial amount of court time set aside for certifying the experts. It can be quite the experience being on the receiving end of it.
posted by bonehead at 11:53 AM on April 17, 2012


Palin: ...It was a pun.

The palindrome of "college" would be "egelloc." It doesn't work!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:55 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying shoddy forensic science isn't a big problem, but this kind of thing is a big reason we have cross-examination. Even if a judge lets a questionable expert on the stand, the other side is free to poke holes in his or her credentials and experience.

You'd like to think this was the case. However, in the real world, lots of people get sent up the river or worse due to the use of everything from sloppy evidence collection to outright bogus forensic science, simply because the government's testimony is presumed more authoritative in court.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:55 AM on April 17, 2012


Even if the testimony of one of these 'forensic experts' won't hold up in court, they can still do a lot of damage by taking jobs they are unqualified for, influencing plea bargains, or misleading law enforcement in general. The field really needs a real certifying authority or a serious professional association.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:57 AM on April 17, 2012


You'd like to think this was the case.

To quote myself: "I'm not saying shoddy forensic science isn't a big problem." I'm saying there is, in fact, a mechanism by which "Jurors have [a] way of knowing that this certifying body ... exacts scientific standards or is just a diploma mill."
posted by jedicus at 11:57 AM on April 17, 2012


My Grade 12 history teacher showed the class how he received a PhD in history from Blackstone College.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:02 PM on April 17, 2012


"The field really needs a real certifying authority or a serious professional association." There are legitimate professional organizations for forensic science disciplines the American Board of Criminalistics is one of the better known organizations in the filed and has much stricter requirements as to who gets certified. The thing is that outside the field of forensics the general public/jurors really have no way of knowing the difference between a ABC or "American College of Forensic Examiners International" certified analyst. In fact many analysts have no external certifications at all. It doesn't mean they do any less quality work but again there is no easy way for the lay-person to make that distinction.
posted by Captain_Science at 12:03 PM on April 17, 2012


Mitrovarr: It does have one - the American Board of Pathology, which has been recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties since 1936. But there's no law that says you can't be certified by some other group with an official-sounding name.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:03 PM on April 17, 2012


For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

On a recent podcast I listen to, a doctor was nearly jumping out of his chair saying that, for example, the Whitney Houston autopsy and death investigation was botched. That, while there was never any evidence of foul play, the report seemed to be biased toward making her death as "palatable" as possible for family and media. As if to say, "Yes, there were drugs, but it was really the drug abuse that killed her..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:11 PM on April 17, 2012


This is of course the subject of tonight's FRONTLINE, "The Real CSI." It's a very good episode and well worth watching.

There's a clip of Lowell Bergman interviewing Cyril Wecht that'll get posted in a half-hour or so.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:11 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


My favorite bit of certification bamboozlery is from Senator Rand Paul. Rather than being accredited by a real medical specialty organization, he formed his own.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:19 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, this is why we can't have nice things.

Like fair trials.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:21 PM on April 17, 2012


"Jurors have [a] way of knowing that this certifying body ... exacts scientific standards or is just a diploma mill."

Sure. But again, the ability to cross examine bogus forensics has all too often had no effect, and it's continued existence in courts poisons the reputation of legitimate science as more people learn of diploma mills.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:25 PM on April 17, 2012


Sure. But again, the ability to cross examine bogus forensics has all too often had no effect, and it's continued existence in courts poisons the reputation of legitimate science as more people learn of diploma mills.

That's part of the point of their being the motion to exclude. The judge rules if you're an idiot or not. Once an expert has ever been successfully Daubert'ed a fair question to ask on cross examination in any future trial is "has your testimony ever been excluded from a trial for not meeting scientific standards of evidence?" This provides substantial incentive for real experts not to work with inadequate counsel, like public defenders, since them screwing up that motion can basically end your career as an expert.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:42 PM on April 17, 2012


s/their/there/
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:43 PM on April 17, 2012


I am the coolest person ever.

inturnaround, ACE*

(Academy of Cooless Evaluation)
posted by inturnaround at 12:47 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


inturnaround, I can totally see that.

maxwelton, LAMN
posted by maxwelton at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2012


Who am I to comment, what with my proudly displayed diploma from The University of Bums on Seats for a Doctorate in Post-Rational Discourse.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:58 PM on April 17, 2012


This is why I would place virtually no weight on certain types of forensic evidence were I to serve on (another) jury in the future. Bite mark evidence, voice analysis a la the Zimmerman thing, and so on. It's snake oil.
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on April 17, 2012


I've been curious about the scientific basis for forensic science ever since I read an article on "the myth of fingerprints" in the late, lamented Lingua Franca magazine. The magazine is no more, but the article can be found here (8 page PDF) and it's still fascinating reading. The author covers the Daubert standard mentioned above, goes briefly into the history of fingerprinting, and then talks about (and testifies at) a Daubert challenge to the notion that fingerprints are unique to an individual.
posted by whir at 1:41 PM on April 17, 2012


Previously on Metafilter:

The American National Academy of Sciences recently released a report that punched a few holes in the credibility of the forensic sciences: often seen (and portrayed) as infallible, in practice they're non-standardized, subjective (warning: pdf with gory image), accepted without rigorous testing (pdf), and lousy with dilettantes. A Canadian inquiry into the work of a pathologist whose testimony wrongly convicted a man of anally raping his four-year-niece to death says that forensic science is useful, but that we're doing it wrong. It's beginning to dawn that what we used to think of as a few bad apples may actually be symptoms of a deep rot in the field itself.

As for the wrongfully convicted Canadian, after 12 years in prison for a crime that didn't exist, he forgave.

March 25, 2009
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"has your testimony ever been excluded from a trial for not meeting scientific standards of evidence?"

Objection: relevance.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why I would place virtually no weight on certain types of forensic evidence were I to serve on (another) jury in the future. Bite mark evidence, voice analysis a la the Zimmerman thing, and so on. It's snake oil.

Please follow the instructions of the judge on this issue.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:33 PM on April 17, 2012


Can the judge instruct jurors to believe someone?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:39 PM on April 17, 2012


Objection: relevance.

I've never been Daubert'ed, but have heard this complaint from people who've served as experts in high-profile cases many times and have. Cursory googling turns up this example of a court finding that asking about previous exclusions is a relevant question to impeach the credibility of an expert. That's just a district court; I have no idea if this is really the law.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:54 PM on April 17, 2012


This is so cool. I'm getting me some credentials, baby!
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:39 PM on April 17, 2012


It's partially Photshop's free degree creator tutorials online. Damn you awesome graphic artists and your helpful videos!
posted by snap_dragon at 4:47 PM on April 17, 2012


Experts you say?

(Sadly, I can't find the "Expert truck's a comin'... comin' to your towwwwwwwnnn" part. But hey... "FUCK YOU GWINNETT")
posted by symbioid at 8:18 PM on April 17, 2012


That's part of the point of their being the motion to exclude. The judge rules if you're an idiot or not. Once an expert has ever been successfully Daubert'ed a fair question to ask on cross examination in any future trial is "has your testimony ever been excluded from a trial for not meeting scientific standards of evidence?" This provides substantial incentive for real experts not to work with inadequate counsel, like public defenders, since them screwing up that motion can basically end your career as an expert.

Objection: relevance.

I've never been Daubert'ed, but have heard this complaint from people who've served as experts in high-profile cases many times and have. Cursory googling turns up this example of a court finding that asking about previous exclusions is a relevant question to impeach the credibility of an expert. That's just a district court; I have no idea if this is really the law.


The question is not relevant at trial because a Daubert motion is a pre-trial motion. You'll note that your link is to the Daubert hearing, not trial. Hence, at trial, the question is not relevant--the expert has already been qualified and the question does not involve the facts at hand. The purpose of Daubert is to avoid those battles going on in front of the jury and eating up the trial time.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 AM on April 18, 2012


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