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February 29, 2016; Vol. 15 No. 02

Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Welcomes Forensics Initiatives Announced by Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates

On February 24, Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates delivered important remarks during the 68th Annual Scientific Meeting Hosted by the American Academy of Forensic Science in Las Vegas, Nevada. In those remarks, there is a clear recognition of the importance of the integrity and reliability of that which is admitted as forensic science in criminal trials in America. Forensic science "brings all of us closer to the truth—whether it's identifying the perpetrator of a crime or clearing the innocent," Yates said.

In her remarks, the Deputy Attorney General announced that the FBI will soon be soliciting bids "for an independent review—or 'root cause analysis'—to determine what went wrong and why in the hair analysis field." In addition, she announced that the Department is committed to taking a closer look at a wider variety of forensic disciplines.

NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said: "NACDL welcomes the Deputy Attorney General's effort to strengthen forensic science. The announcement concerning the 'root cause analysis' review is especially heartening. And the Association is delighted that the Justice Department has committed to looking at a wider array of disciplines. That said, as relates to the announcement that the FBI is preparing 'Approved Scientific Standards for Testimony and Reports,' we strongly urge the Department and the FBI to seek out the very best outside experts, on statistics and probabilities among other areas, as they develop these standards."

"This is the start of a significant change in the quality of forensic evidence introduced in criminal trials," said NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris. "If the FBI shows the same commitment to straightening out the bad practices in the past in other pattern and impression practices as they have in the context of microscopic hair comparison, this will be a very good thing for the integrity of the American criminal justice system."

In her remarks, Yates also praised NACDL and the Innocence Project for the organizations' contributions:

"As many of you know, last April, the Justice Department released a statement with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) regarding the FBI's use of microscopic hair comparison analysis prior to the year 2000. Our joint review of lab examiners' testimony revealed that at least 90 percent of trial transcripts contained erroneous statements relating to forensic hair analysis. We take this matter very seriously, and I want to thank everyone at the FBI, the Innocence Project and NACDL for their unprecedented collaboration as we seek to identify past errors and ensure that justice is done in each case."

To learn more about the Microscopic Hair Comparison Review Project, please visit http://www.nacdl.org/haircomparison/.

Volunteers: Anyone interested in volunteering to take on pro bono a post-conviction case involving microscopic hair comparison evidence is encouraged to contact NACDL Post-Conviction Counsel Amelia Maxfield at amaxfield@nacdl.org or 202-465-7646.

Read more here.

Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Presents Radley Balko with its Champion of Justice Journalism Award

On Friday, February 19, 2016, at its midwinter seminar and meeting in Austin, Texas, NACDL presented Washington Post journalist, investigative reporter, and blogger Radley Balko with its Champion of Justice Journalism Award.

"There are few people focused so effectively on exposing the underside of the American criminal justice system," said NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris. "He is tireless, he is prolific, and he is quite clearly motivated by a profound concern for justice, fairness, and liberty. For all of these reasons and more, I selected Radley Balko to receive the first NACDL Champion of Justice Journalism Award presented since 2009."

Upon receiving the award, Mr. Balko said "No one is in a better position to see the flaws, biases, and inadequacies of our criminal justice system than a criminal defense attorney. They deal with this stuff on a daily basis. I just try to shine a light on it. So to receive this award from NACDL is incredibly flattering and rewarding."

In his groundbreaking 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, Mr. Balko brought the issue of police militarization to the national conversation before Ferguson, Missouri burst into the headlines nationwide.

Mr. Balko's extensive reporting at the Washington Post is available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/.

Read more here.

Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Applauds Administration's Efforts to Close Guantanamo, But Says the Framework Falls Short

On February 23, the Administration released what it says is a "Plan for Closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility." While there are serious deficiencies in that plan, the administration is to be commended for continuing its effort to at long last shutter the detention facility. Of particular note are the provisions that would facilitate the transfer of those detainees who have been cleared and speed up the pace of the review of the remaining candidates for transfer.

"While NACDL welcomes this effort to close the facility, unfortunately the proposal released today envisions both flawed Military Commissions as well as the practice of indefinite detention without charge on U.S. soil. The continuation of either, anywhere is simply unacceptable," said NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris. "NACDL has long maintained that the facility, the commissions, and the practice of indefinite detention without charge are stains on the U.S. Constitution. They should be immediately discontinued. Article III courts are best suited to handle these complex cases. And if charges cannot be brought against certain detainees, they should be released. Period."

To learn more about NACDL's extensive work in the area of national security, please visit http://www.nacdl.org/nationalsecurity.

House Judiciary Committee Advances the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act of 2016
Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote HR 759, the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act of 2016, as part of its bipartisan criminal justice reform initiative. Based on a yet-to-be-developed risk assessment tool, the bill is designed to provide incentives, including early prerelease custody, for inmates to participate in recidivism reduction programs. Key additional components of the bill include (1) preventing the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from monitoring the contents of electronic communication to or from a prisoner in a federal prison facility and his or her attorney or other legal representative; and (2) extending the compassionate elderly release provision from the Second Chance Act. Click here for more information on the House Judiciary Committee's Criminal Justice Reform Initiative.
Take Action: President Obama has “Banned the Box” – Tell Congress to do the same!

NACDL was one of many organizations and individuals who sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action to "Ban the Box" in federal employment hiring practices. In November, he did just that! President Obama announced a number of re-entry measures for formerly incarcerated individuals, including directing the Office of Personal Management (OPM) to take action to "Ban the Box" in federal employment hiring practices, delaying inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs reported S. 2021, the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2015, favorably from the committee. This legislation would go a step further by requiring federal contractors to "Ban the Box" as well. NACDL signed onto the coalition letter in support of S. 2021.

Contact your senator today and urge them to support S. 2021! 

NACDL's 7th Annual FREE Training for Post-Conviction Lawyers

NACDL, in collaboration with the Innocence Network and supported by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, presents "In The Mix? Dealing with DNA, Cognitive Bias & Habeas in the Innocence Case," an essential new training specifically for lawyers who handle post-conviction innocence claims*. The training will take place on April 7, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. National experts will provide state-of-the-art instruction on topics essential for today's post-conviction litigation: low level DNA mixture interpretation and cognitive bias in the forensic sciences, as well as a federal habeas overview and strategies. Recent developments in DNA mixture interpretation make this training crucial for any lawyer involved in potential innocence claims. Our experts will provide a scientific primer on DNA mixtures, then move on to new developments, guideline changes, and the impact on post-conviction cases. In the afternoon, our expert faculty will discuss the science of cognitive bias and provide practical instruction on how to use that information in your cases. Indispensable instruction on federal habeas relief will round out the program.

Read more and register at www.nacdl.org/postconviction.

*You must work on post-conviction innocence claims and cannot work on the prosecution of criminal matters. By registering for this training, you certify those facts to be true. If you have any questions about eligibility to attend, please contact Senior Resource Counsel, Vanessa Antoun at vantoun@nacdl.org or 202-465-7663.

NACDL Partnering on Alternative Sentencing Summit

NACDL is partnering with the Aleph Institute and several other criminal justice advocates, including the Brennan Center and Right on Crime, to organize The Alternative Sentencing Key-Stakeholder Summit (ASKS). The Summit will be held on March 7-8 at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. The Summit aims to bring together key stakeholders in criminal justice to explore the application of alternative sentencing programs for reducing both incarceration and recidivism. Panelists and attendees will share perspectives on the issues and identify priorities regarding extending the use of alternative sentencing measures in practice and mitigating concerns over their broadened use.

NACDL is developing a bi-partisan panel to address collateral consequences of incarceration, in part based on key recommendations in our groundbreaking report Collateral Damage: America's Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime. Space is limited so register now at www.askssummit.com.

NACDL 2016 Election Notice
NACDL's 2016 election is underway. Individuals interested in running for officer positions or for the board of directors should consult www.nacdl.org/elections for information on deadlines and procedures.
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