My answers to your questions
On the subject of science, if 10 scientists are in a room with a DA, and 9 say "This test is useful for screening, but isn't accurate enough for a conviction", and 1 scientist says "This test is accurate enough to convict", the DA will conveniently never invite the other 9 back. And then once knowledge proliferates among non-scientists that "we have a test", everything gets routed through that test. A non-criminal example would be how coal companies routed all their black lung confirmations through a center at Johns Hopkins to a single "renowned" doctor who magically never saw black lung - even in people who quickly died later of black lung.
Roadside drug tests have NEVER been accurate enough - they are on par with screening tests done in a lab. But in a lab, a positive screening test goes to a far more rigorous confirmation test. And the reason we should worry is because roadside alcohol blood tests are absolutely on their way, and we are absolutely going to see jurisdictions use a screening-level test to convict people of DUI without going back for the far more accurate confirmation test in a lab.
It is going to get worse before it gets better.
Regarding evidence, I'm going to shamelessly plug my Applied Animal Behavior prof, Dr. James Ha, for serving as an expert witness and getting an innocent man out of jail in Macomb County by pointing out all the problems with the K9 evidence, with the caveat that he is there to provide expert testimony, not to get people released. It just so happens that good information often helps defendants.
More generally though, for anyone really invested in understanding dogs, there's a big need for actually trained expert witnesses. The field of Applied Animal Behavior could use more disciples, and it's an extremely rich, rewarding way to explore an interest in animals. I'm still learning and I'm not sure I'll ever be at a true "expert witness" level but it's a worthwhile endeavor.
Thoughtful, nuanced, and fact-based work, as always. Thank you!
Please plan a trip to Missoula, MT, this summer. The Mission Valley will take your breath away. (I'm lucky to have a friend there.)
I was just in Jackson MS and walked around appalled at the crumbling infrastructure thanks to GOP state Senate and the broken store front windows and even gagged down some Chik-fil-A for breakfast because literally nothing else was around but I'd be back in a heartbeat because I have never met friendlier, more gracious people. Even for the South, it was insane how anyone you have a 2 minute conversation with is your new best friend who has your back ands wants to hear your life story. Back in NyC I gotta tamp down the social habits I picked up there cause they'll put me in a mental hospital.
Try Newark, NJ, especially around now, in the middle of cherry blossom season. It has far more blossoms than that little town on the Potomac. You can get to the cherry blossoms on a charming little subway following an old canal bed. It also has a world-class deli (Hobby's), and a Portuguese district that looks like it was transported across one ocean and a century or so.
I notice you didn't mention any place in California on your list of "favorite places." In the event that you're unfamiliar with the place, I suggest checking out the San Francisco Bay Area. Yes, the city itself has its charms, but there's also places like Muir Woods, Tilden Park and Briones Park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Pt. Reyes National Seashore for outdoorsy activities, and the quaint little towns of Berkeley, Calistoga, Napa and St. Helena (pretty good wine in those two), Sausalito and Tiburon, and Half Moon Bay further south. As for the southern part of the state...I echo your sentiment about Boston (in the same spirit).
Very interesting! Your prescription for criminal laboratory tests sounds a lot like the requirements we have in place for clinical laboratory tests ("blind, scientifically-administered, properly-scored competency tests" -- see CLIA). The stakes for are just as high for criminal cases, and the testing should be just as rigorous.
Lake Burton, Georgia, is possibly the best lake in the world in my totally unbiased opinion.
Absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for doing this mailbag. I learn so much from you and the commentors.
Thank you for that thoughtful answer about the January 6 defendants. I feel much the same way.
I subscribed just to ask this question: what's the name of the delightful Syrian/Korean fusion spot in NYC?