Last September, President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a scathing report on the use of forensic analysis and expertise in the criminal-justice system. The report looked at pattern matching forensic disciplines such as bite mark matching, shoe print matching, blood spatter analysis, fingerprint matching and hair fiber analysis. It also looked at DNA testing when investigators find biological material from multiple sources, a scenario that can bring human subjectivity into the testing. With the exception of single-source DNA testing, the report found serious deficiencies in all areas of forensics it studied, Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post.
The PCAST report was damning, but it wasn’t at all surprising. It’s now January. And not only has the Obama administration done nothing about the report, the Justice Department has denounced it. Writes Balko: “That report, along with others and an administration that seemed unusually equipped to take it seriously, presented a small window in which to reform a system. That window is about slam shut. And we’re about to be governed by a new administration that seems likely to board it up, wallpaper it and overlay it with brick. This wasn’t just a missed opportunity; it was a catastrophe. And it’s difficult to overstate the consequences.”