Thursday, March 26, 2009

Innocence Project: Stronger Forensic Oversight

Former federal judge Harry Edwards testified last week before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that “there’s an obvious need to overhaul the existing system of forensic science in the United States.”

Edwards was the co-chairman of the National Academy of Sciences committee that released a report last month calling for the creation of an independent federal agency to oversee and support forensic science in the nation’s criminal justice system. After hearing from a wide range of experts, the committee found resounding proof that the forensic science system needs immediate and fundamental reform. The Innocence Project has begun working with Congress and other key stakeholders to implement the report’s recommendations.
Download the National Academy of Sciences report here, and read more about the Innocence Project’s work to improve forensic standards and oversight.

In other forensic reform news this month, the Innocence Project released a report on the program created by Congress nearly five years ago to address forensic misconduct. An Innocence Project survey found that just 13% of designated forensic oversight entities meet all federal requirements. The report outlines serious problems with the U.S. Department of Justice’s management of the program over the last several years and includes concrete improvements the Obama Administration can make.

“Congress wanted to ensure that serious forensic negligence or misconduct was properly investigated. Instead, the Bush Administration’s Justice Department essentially ignored federal law and let serious problems in crime labs go unaddressed,” said Stephen Saloom, Policy Director at the Innocence Project.
Download the Innocence Project report here.

Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld and University of Virginia Law Professor Brandon Garrett also published an article this month in the Virginia Law Review on invalid forensic testimony and its contribution to wrongful convictions.
Read more and download the new paper here.

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