Associate Professor Jessica Gabel appeared on PBS science series NOVA on Oct. 17.
The episode featuring Gabel, titled "Forensics on Trial," investigates recent criticisms of forensic science and methods long thought to be foolproof, such as drawing decisive evidence from fingerprints, ballistics and tire marks. Many common practices, Gabel says, are grounded more in assumptions than in science and research.
"My research has been focused on that specific issue for the last few years," Gabel says. "Needing to have a scientific and research-based assessment of forensic sciences so that it is more reliable in court. A lot of times in these cases, the only thing they have is the forensic evidence… [backing it up with science] helps make the conviction more reliable."
Gabel studied criminal justice, specializing in forensic science, as an undergraduate. Inspired by criminal cases in which DNA evidence proved a defendant's innocence years after conviction, she enrolled in law school. Throughout her legal studies and career, Gabel has dedicated considerable time to preventing wrongful convictions.
Professor Gabel consults on various bankruptcy and criminal matters and has engaged in numerous pro bono criminal defense representations. Recently, she successfully appealed a wrongful conviction and death sentence in Mississippi, resulting in her client's freedom.