Flawed handwriting analyses could fuel criminal defenses, appeals

In Oregon, where criminal prosecution is taken very seriously. Because of this strict approach, many people may mistakenly assume that when a person is facing criminal charges, he or she is automatically a criminal. The accused person must be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. At trial, the jury investigates both sides of the story in order to make the appropriate decision, which is expected to be fair and just.

In a criminal case earlier this year, the handwriting-examination unit of the Oregon State Police caught the attention of the public. In January 2012, the police handled a murder-for-hire case and later found out that there was a discrepancy in the handwriting analysis results.

The people who worked in the handwriting unit were suspended as a result of their botched work. There were two analysts in the handwriting unit: a 64-year old man with 30 years of experience of law enforcement in Alaska and a 56-year-old woman who served in the U.S. Army in a criminal investigation.

The analysts are required to independently examine the piece of evidence in question, which is then compared to a verifiable example of the suspect's handwriting. The two handwriting analysts handle at least 80 cases every year and most of those are high-profile cases. The errors they made are suspected to be the result of low-quality work and biases, which may have led to numerous wrongful convictions.

Experts are going to review the results provided by the two analysts from 2009 to 2010, hoping to rebuild the reputation that was damaged. On the other hand, the people who were convicted may appeal their case, especially when there are well-known errors like this within investigative work.

Prompt action in terms of criminal defense may steer the situation in a positive direction to better ensure a fair outcome. If the accused is convicted, the defense team may still be able to file an appeal to review the potentially erroneous pieces of evidence used to secure a conviction.

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