In a bold protest of a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Justice’s to reject recommendations made by a federally appointed panel of the National Commission on Forensic Science formed to address growing concerns around the quality of forensic evidence in criminal court, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York has resigned from the commission, according to the
Rakoff, the sole federal judge on the commission, wrote to his fellow commission members:
… the Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice has decided that the subject of pre-trial forensic discovery — i.e., the extent to which information regarding forensic science experts and their data, opinions, methodologies, etc., should be disclosed before they testify in court – is beyond the “scope” of the Commission’s business and therefore cannot properly be the subject of Commission reports or discussions in any respect.
Because I believe that this unilateral decision is a major mistake that is likely to significantly erode the effectiveness of the Commission — and because I believe it reflects a determination by the Department of Justice to place strategic advantage over a search for the truth, I have decided to resign from the Commission, effective immediately.”
Rakoff announced his resignation in an email on Wednesday night, the evening before the commission was scheduled to discuss a proposal recommending expansion of the rules for the types of information that prosecutors are required to provide pre-trial regarding forensic evidence. The proposal had been submitted by a panel co-chaired by Rakoff that was charged with examining reporting and testimony at trials.
reports that the Department of Justice rejected the recommendations because the department’s “experts found that many of the commission’s proposals were covered by existing rules and guidelines, and encouraged the panel to keep working on evidence retention policies and transparency.”
Members of the commission said to the
that while “the commission’s efforts to improve research, training and standards will likely take years and new resources to bear fruit … Rakoff’s subcommittee on reporting and testimony could immediately help judges and juries make clearer sense of questioned forensic techniques.”
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