One of the glaring scandals in this country — and virtually no one speaks about it — is the fact that our prisons are littered with people who were convicted on the basis of pseudo-scientific nonsense that has either never been shown to be valid, or has conclusively been shown not to be valid.
Bruises are a perfect example. There are forensic “experts” who testify in cases all the time, claiming that they can tell just from the appearance of a bruise when it was inflicted, thus narrowing down the time of the crime. They often claim they can do this so accurately that it can tell you to the hour when the bruise came to be. So much for that nonsense.
In this study, forensic experts looked at 132 photographic images of bruises, ranging from 0 to 209 hours in age.
Bruises were produced on the upper arms of 11 Caucasian subjects by a suction pump. Daily sequential photographs were taken until they were no longer visible to the naked eye. Fifteen forensic experts were asked to estimate the age of the bruises and also place them in chronological order.
Lead author, Margaret Pilling, an Honours Medical Student at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: “The greatest accuracy, from forensic experts, occurred in very fresh bruises (between 0 and 12 hours) however there were still a number of significant misjudgements in this age range.
“The median difference between the estimated age and the real age was 26 hours – a considerable disparity. We conclude that forensic experts’ estimates of bruise age from photographs are, at best, unreliable.”
CSI is not reality, folks.