Forensic Science Reform Is Long Overdue
Washington, DC (Jan. 25, 2011) – As more than a decade of crime lab scandals have shown, forensic evidence presented in court is, at times, often bogus – based on speculative research, inadequate quality control, and subjective interpretations. Ensuring the scientific integrity of forensic evidence is essential to preventing wrongful convictions and exonerating the innocent.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers appreciates Sen. Patrick Leahy for introducing the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Reform Act of 2011. Two years ago, the National Research Council of the National Academies in Washington, D.C., issued a landmark report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, which set forth a roadmap for forensic evidence reform and renewed the call for fairness in the criminal justice system. NACDL’s own report, Principles and Recommendations to Strengthen Forensic Evidence and Its Presentation in the Courtroom, which supports the recommendations of the NRC Report, was approved and adopted by the association’s board of directors in February 2010.
“The great number of exonerations in the past two decades has greatly undermined the public trust in the criminal justice system,” said NACDL President Jim E. Lavine, of Houston. “Confidence that the system correctly identifies the perpetrators of criminal offenses and prevents wrongful convictions has been eroded by lab scandals around the country, and discoveries that convictions have been obtained through error, poor training, pseudoscience, and sometimes outright fraud,” Lavine said.
“NACDL has been advocating forensic reform for many years, and we look forward to the opportunity to share our expertise and concerns with the Senator to help advance the goals of this legislation,” said Atlanta criminal defense lawyer Drew Findling, who chairs NACDL’s Forensic Disciplines Committee. “NACDL still supports the NRC’s well-reasoned call to create a forensic science entity independent of law enforcement in order to create what we call a ‘culture of science’ to replace what has been called a ‘culture of convictions’ by some critics. With appropriate modifications, the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Reform Act could be a giant leap in that direction.”