Modern advancements in science and technology have revolutionized how crimes are investigated. However, they provide a new source of evidence that most people are blind to. Forensics is often the most critical element that decides the outcome of criminal cases. Similarly, forensics has put people away for life and given back innocent people their life.
Barton W. Morris, Jr. has been an ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist since October 2014. Barton is the only attorney in Michigan and one of the 22 lawyers throughout the nation with this title. But what does this mean, and how is it significant in investigating drug crimes?
What is ACS?
With more than 161,000 members, the American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific society. Moreover, it’s one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information. The Chemistry and the Law Division (CHAL) has over 1,400 members.
Chartered by Congress as a nonprofit organization, ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise. This makes it the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions around the globe. An ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist is one who uses valid and legitimate science for the benefit of justice. In particular, OWI cases are increasingly tied to forensic results.
ACS Forensic Lawyer-Scientist Requirements
To become a certified Forensic Lawyer-Scientist, Barton completed several intensive courses in forensic chromatography, analysis and more. Additionally, these mandatory courses and labs spanned over 160 hours. Finally, he passed a difficult comprehensive examination.
Listed below is some of the qualification criteria for this distinction:
- Be and remain a member in good standing with the ACS-Chemistry and the Law Division.
- Be a lawyer in good standing with their state bar.
- Answer questions posed by CHAL about bar status upon demand. Additionally, comply with all terms and conditions of the designation.
- Successfully complete the ACS Forensic Chromatography Course TWO TIMES.
- Successfully complete the ACS Solid Drug Dose (Forensic Drug Analysis) Course and the ACS Forensic DUID (Forensic Principles of DUID) Course.
- Pass a proficiency and knowledge examination based upon the courses.
Significance in a Trial
While forensic evidence is generally considered more valid than circumstantial evidence, improper forensic data can be damning in a case. As a result, 45% of the wrongful convictions exonerated by the Innocence Project were rooted in the misapplication of forensic science. Certified Forensic Lawyer-Scientists expose invalid or non-validated science by possessing valid scientific knowledge.
In April 2014, Barton earned an acquittal after the jury found the defendant not guilty of a third OWI offense. The defendant blew a .26 and .27 after getting into a single car accident. Afterwards, the arresting officer did not look into the defendant’s mouth before administering the preliminary breath test (PBT). Obviously, this is against protocol.
If he had, he would have found a cotton swab soaked with Orajel Severe Tooth Pain Reliever (44.2% ethyl alcohol by weight). This case establishes the importance of mastering the science of breath alcohol testing. Additionally, it’s vital to possess a good knowledge of police officer alcohol enforcement training.
Misapplication of Forensic Science
There are many forensic scientific methods that are used in drug and alcohol cases. Urine screening, preliminary breath test (PBT) and hair follicle testing is the most common forensic method used in controlled substance investigations. However, this data can be skewed for a variety of reasons.
There are multiple ways forensic evidence can produce misleading testimony:
- Forensic testimony can exaggerate the significance of similarities between evidence from a crime scene and evidence from an individual. Additionally, it can also oversimplify the data.
- Forensic testimony can understate, downplay, or omit analysis significance that establishes that an individual should be released.
- Forensic testimony can fail to include information on the limitations such as a forensic method’s error rates.
Forensic scientists are humans, and they can make mistakes such as mixing up or contaminating samples. These can occur in any type of laboratory testing, no matter the discipline.
In some cases, forensic analysts have fabricated results, hidden exonerating evidence, or reported results when testing had not been conducted. As recent as 2017, Massachusetts overturned over 21,000 drug convictions due to fabricated test resultsfrom a former state chemist. According to the ACLU, this has been the largest single dismissal of convictions in U.S. history.
The Future of Forensic Evidence in Alcohol and Controlled Substance Cases
There’s still a lot to be done in the future of forensic evidence. Especially in substance cases with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan. Recently, Barton and the Impaired Driving Safety Commission presented findings about THC levels in blood. Both Barton and the commission agreed that these are not an “accurate measure of the level of intoxication.”
As the only ACS-CHAL Forensic Lawyer-Scientist in Michigan, Barton Morris is dedicated to evaluating forensic evidence. Hiring a lawyer with extensive forensic knowledge possesses a significant advantage during the trial process.
Barton W. Morris Jr., the founder of The Law Offices of Barton Morris and Cannabis Legal Group, is available for interviews on this matter.
Sydney Fairman is the Social Media Marketing Specialist for the Law Offices of Barton Morris and Cannabis Legal Group. While at Central Michigan University, Sydney was an active member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and held various internships, leadership and part-time positions. These places of employment include the City of Mt. Pleasant, Grand Central Magazine, Mackinac State Historic Parks and WCMU Public Media (PBS). She graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelors Degree in Applied Arts in Integrative Public Relations and minor in Journalism. Sydney comes to us after her first position post-college with Gale, a Cengage Company as a Marketing Associate. She possesses a passion for writing, marketing and graphic design and showcases this on the Law Offices of Barton Morris’ website/social media channels, as well as Cannabis Legal Group’s website/social media channels.