Defense attorneys say they will step up their challenges to certain forensic practices now that the Justice Department has disbanded an independent commission that was studying how to improve their reliability, says the Associated Press. But the absence of research or guidance from the National Commission on Forensic Science could make the task of challenging questionable scientific evidence in court even harder, and experts worry that “garbage science” will continue to cloud court cases. “Even if defense attorneys jump up and down and complain about it, they won’t have the power of a national commission to back them up,” said Erin Murphy, a New York University law professor. “The status quo right now is to admit it all.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would not renew the commission, a panel of researchers, scientists, judges and attorneys that had been working more than three years to raise forensic science standards. Research had increasingly shown that techniques such as comparisons of hair found at crime scenes, handwriting analyses, bite-mark evidence and certain ballistics tests are scientifically flawed. The announcement drew alarm from those who saw the commission as the best chance for an independent look at questionable techniques that have long been used in American courtrooms. They fear its end marks a rollback of recent reform efforts.