Washington, DC (June 12, 2014) – Public defenders from around the country, and other lawyers with training responsibilities, are gathering at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law from June 8 to 13, 2014, to train in the most current complex forensic science issues. With support from the Foundation for Criminal Justice, Cardozo Law and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) hosted the inaugural, first-of-its-kind NACDL-Cardozo Law National Forensic College (NFC), with an aim of significantly decreasing the number of people incarcerated via wrongful convictions.
"Training lawyers in the latest in forensic science means we are creating a network of public defenders who are better armed in the courtroom, and more prepared to win their case," said Cardozo Law Professor Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project. "Spreading this type of knowledge is essential in our goal of decreasing the numbers of those wrongfully imprisoned."
For each subject matter area, a faculty of leading scientists, litigators, and scholars in the field are covering latest developments and systematically strategizing how forensic issues can be approached at each stage in a case.
"The National Forensic College reflects Cardozo Law’s commitment to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions," said Cardozo Law Dean Matthew Diller. "As the home of the Innocence Project, the school has been involved in freeing innocent prisoners through DNA evidence from the beginning. The NFC will help advance this cause throughout the nation."
In the six-day college, lawyers and scientific experts are forming working groups to make sure each of the trainees became part of a national network that shares the best information, uses and develops the best experts, and pursues disciplined and sophisticated law reform strategies. The college instructs the newly trained lawyers to then train their colleagues at their office in the latest in forensic science.
"This is precisely the sort of program that is a core part of the NACDL mission – fostering the expertise of the criminal defense profession. NACDL, through its myriad training programs, is committed to ensuring that all attorneys – private and public defenders – are equipped to deliver the very best, cutting edge defense to their clients," said NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer. "We are delighted to have partnered with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law to make such an important program a reality."
The college is thoroughly training lawyers in a multitude of issues. "Litigating DNA Cases: Low Template DNA and Databank Access” looked at updates to legal rulings that concern the admissibility of low copy number DNA, new studies dealing with the prevalence of contaminated DNA in labs, and the issues associated with the interpretation of complex mixed DNA samples. "Litigating False Confession Cases" included a discussion on selecting experts in false confession cases, preparing client testimony, and a lecture/demonstrative on cross-examination questions in false confession cases. "Litigating Forensic Economic Crimes” included discussion concerning the calculation and evaluation of loss, "materiality" of accounting misstatements, and litigation of mortgage fraud. "Litigating Eyewitness Identification Cases” focused on findings related to eyewitness memory and perception, recent legal developments on eyewitness ID, and how to tell a compelling story about why the witness is wrong. Other panels included "Litigating Pattern Evidence Cases: Fingerprints," and "Litigating Digital Evidence Cases – Focus on Cellphones."
The defenders from offices that were unable to make a contribution toward tuition or lodging had their participation subsidized by the sponsors.
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This program was made possible by support from Cardozo, the Foundation for Criminal Justice, and corporate and law firm sponsors.
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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 many thousands of 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.