The decision to shelve the 40-member commission and abandon DOJ’s Forensic Science Discipline Reviews is a “troubling” step backwards in efforts to apply scientific knowledge to trial evidence, warns a member of one of the commission’s subcommittees.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has canned a a commission of scientists and legal scholars charged with scrutinizing questionable forensic practices, including hair, handwriting and bite-mark analysis. The onus is now on defense attorneys to challenge such evidence on a case-by-case basis.
The U.S. Attorney General is turning back the clock on the use of questionable forensic practices, such as bite-mark testimony and comparisons of hair, handwriting, tire treads and footprints. New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer, who has written extensively about these practices, says they resemble magic more than science.
The Attorney General says he will use an in-house team of law enforcement advisers to replace a 30-member panel of scientists, judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers created by the Obama administration in 2013.
A California legislator will once again try to expand the collection of DNA evidence in criminal cases, which has declined under Proposition 47’s reassignment of some former felonies to misdemeanor status.
U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report says the nation’s 409 publicly funded crime labs had an estimated backlog of 570,100 requests for forensic services at the end of 2014, down from 895,500 backlogged requests five years earlier.
Lawyers in murder case of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez seek court review of expert testimony on firearm linked to the crime. Disputed report by President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology questioned the science of analyzing firearm evidence.
California uses controversial DNA matching technique to identify two murderers, including the “Grim Sleeper,” and five men wanted for sexual assaults. Some skeptics are persuaded that California maintains strict policies limiting the practice’s use. Eight other states have embraced the technique.