March 19, 2021

Brandon L. Garrett

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes BRANDON L. GARRETT—the L. Neil Williams Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law and author of End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice—for a discussion of his latest book, Autopsy of a Crime Lab: Exposing the Flaws in Forensics. He will be joined in conversation by DANIEL MEDWED—professor of Law and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University—and RADHA NATARAJAN, Executive Director for the New England Innocence Project.


"That's not my fingerprint, your honor," said the defendant, after FBI experts reported a "100-percent identification." They were wrong. It is shocking how often they are. Autopsy of a Crime Lab is the first book to catalog the sources of error and the faulty science behind a range of well-known forensic evidence, from fingerprints and firearms to forensic algorithms. In this devastating forensic takedown, noted legal expert Brandon L. Garrett poses the questions that should be asked in courtrooms every day: Where are the studies that validate the basic premises of widely accepted techniques such as fingerprinting? How can experts testify with 100 percent certainty about a fingerprint, when there is no such thing as a 100 percent match? Where is the quality control in the laboratories and at the crime scenes? Should we so readily adopt powerful new technologies like facial recognition software and rapid DNA machines? And why have judges been so reluctant to consider the weaknesses of so many long-accepted methods?

Taking us into the lives of the wrongfully convicted or nearly convicted, into crime labs rocked by scandal, and onto the front lines of promising reform efforts driven by professionals and researchers alike, Autopsy of a Crime Lab illustrates the persistence and perniciousness of shaky science and its well-meaning practitioners.

About Author(s)

Brandon L. Garrett is the L. Neil Williams Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, where he directs the Wilson Center for Science and Justice. His previous books include Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go WrongToo Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations, and End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice.

Daniel Medwed is University Distinguished Professor of Law and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. His book, Prosecution Complex: America’s Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent (New York University Press, 2012), explores how even well-meaning prosecutors may contribute to wrongful convictions because of cognitive biases and an overly deferential regime of legal and ethical rules. He is a founding member of the board of directors of the Innocence Network, a consortium of innocence projects throughout the world. He is also the legal analyst for WGBH News, Boston’s local NPR and PBS affiliate.

Radha Natarajan is the Executive Director for the New England Innocence Project (NEIP). Prior to joining NEIP as its Staff Attorney in 2015, Radha spent twelve years as a public defender, most recently at the Roxbury Defenders, handling serious felony cases in the Massachusetts trial courts. For her work, she has been presented with the 2020 Carol Donovan Award for Exceptional Advocacy by the Committee for Public Counsel Services, 2020 Excellence in the Law Award from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and many other honors. She is a 2000 graduate of Stanford University, where she majored in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, focusing on the role of race in the legal system.