News 03.29.10

Federal Judge Questions Forensic Reliability

Forensic evidence isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner wrote in an order last month that defense attorneys should challenge unvalidated forensics when they are used against clients.

In an apparent first for a federal judge, Gertner wrote that courts should view most  forensic disciplines with skepticism rather than admitting evidence just because it has always been allowed. She said she was influenced by last year’s report from the National Academy of Sciences, which called for the creation of a federal entity to oversee forensics nationwide.

Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld said Gertner’s statements should bring attention to the role of unvalidated science in American courtrooms today.

“It’s a wakeup call not only to other judges and to prosecutors but frankly to defense attorneys who for years — despite the rising tide of scientific reports indicating that many of the so-called tried-and-true disciplines were not in fact so true — rarely did their homework to mount serious challenges,’’ Neufeld told

the Boston Globe

.

More than half the 252 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing to date

involved unvalidated or improper forensic science at trial

.

Read more about the National Academy of Sciences report and join the call for federal forensic oversight at the

Just Science Coalition website

.

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