Sessions Axes Commission on Forensic Science

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, the Washington Post reports. He said a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers. Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers created by the Obama administration in 2013. A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions said.

The commission began yesterday its last two-day meeting before its term ends April 23. Some of its most far-reaching final recommendations remained hanging before the department. No decision has been made on a call for new, departmentwide standards for examining and reporting forensic evidence in criminal courts. DOJ has decided to suspend work on setting uniform standards for forensic testimony. Sessions said the changes were intended to build on the commission’s work while weighing other approaches to assessing forensic science findings now central to many crime investigations and court proceedings. It was the latest break by Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, with Obama-era priorities. In September, a White House science panel called on courts to question the admissibility of four widely used techniques, including firearms tracing, saying claims about their reliability had not been scientifically proved.

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