A federal judge has returned to a presidential commission on forensic science after the U.S. Justice Department reversed a decision to bar the panel from discussing changes that would give criminal defendants more information about forensic evidence before their trials, the Washington Post reports. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff of New York City resigned in protest last week from the Obama administration panel, accusing the department of placing “strategic advantage [for prosecutors] over a search for the truth.”
Acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates invited Rakoff to return, saying she had not been aware the commission had worked openly on its plans for nearly a year. Yates told the National Commission on Forensic Science that “it seemed only fair” that it “make its determination as to what information should be provided to the Attorney General.” “This is obviously a critically important issue to the Department,” Yates said. “We take very seriously our obligation to ensure that defendants receive a fair trial.” A Justice Department official said the initial decision that pretrial evidence discovery rules were beyond the commission's scope was made by Yates's predecessor, James Cole. The official added that Yates may not agree with the panel's suggestions.