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In the past couple of years defence lawyers have brought in more experts to challenge tower evidence, says Mr Jansen. Most police officers and lawyers have “no clue” how phone networks function, says Ryan Bialas, a North Dakota public defender. Cop shows like “CSI” give juries the idea that scientific evidence is almost infallible. But tower data is far less accurate than prosecutors sometimes claim.
Location, location, location
Cherry Biometrics, a Virginia forensics firm, has testified in more than 20 trials where tower evidence was being used. In all of them, says Michael Cherry, the boss, prosecutors misunderstood the technology. Often they would assert that mobile phones connect to the nearest tower. In fact, two calls dialled consecutively from the same spot may connect to two different towers: one close by, the other many miles away. Defence lawyers sometimes use the same “junk science” to support alibis, adds Mr Cherry.