Another Opportunity for Forensic Reform: A Call to the Courts

When a case includes forensic evidence, one issue for the court is whether the testimony that will be presented is scientifically valid or generally accepted as scientifically valid. The report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is an important resource for defense attorneys and for the criminal justice system at large. It examines the foundational validity of some of the most commonly used pattern matching disciplines. The PCAST report provides strong support for courts to consider the exclusion of bitemark, hair, footwear identification, and firearms comparison testimony. However, in the event a court is not willing to preclude an examiner from testifying, it is incumbent on the defense to insist the examiner’s testimony be limited to what has been scientifically established.