News Release ~ 05/12/1997

Congress Should Reform FBI Lab 

Make Lab a Center for Forensic Excellence

Washington, DC (May 12, 1997) -- Science should favor neither the prosecution nor the defense in its search for the truth, an attorney for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) will remind members of the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning. The panel is holding oversight hearings on serious deficiencies in the FBI Lab which came to light after last month's release of the Justice Department Inspector General's damning Report. Having focused on just 3 of 35 Lab units, the Report identified numerous instances of fabrication of test results, scientifically flawed and biased testimony, unqualified examiners with little or no formal education in their professed field of expertise, a predisposition toward slanting testimony in favor of the prosecution, and other rampant problems.

NACDL counsel Daniel S. Alcorn, Fensterwald & Alcorn, Vienna, Va., will urge Congress to continue and expand its oversight role, helping to reform the FBI Lab into a world-respected center for excellence in forensic science. For too long, the FBI lab has operated beyond the pale and beyond any meaningful external review or accountability, Alcorn said in a written statement provided to the committee. Numerous newspaper articles and editorials published since the release of the Justice Department's FBI Lab Report indicate public confidence in the lab is at an all-time low, and its once-stellar worldwide reputation is indelibly tattered.

Alcorn will appear on the first panel with FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, the often-commended FBI scientist whose assertions about improprieties at the lab -- after repeatedly being ignored internally for over a decade -- gave rise to the Inspector General's investigation and were substantially corroborated by the final Report. 

The oversight hearings will be held Tuesday, May 13, 1997 beginning at 9:00 a.m., Room 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. [Click Here] for written statement to be presented by Dan Alcorn.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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