An editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times makes a strong case for federal forensic reform, pointing out that Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent man executed in Texas in 2004, is among countless people sent to prison in the U.S. based on faulty forensic evidence.
Willingham’s case is heartbreaking: He lost his children to fire and his wife to divorce, spent 12 years in prison and died still protesting his innocence. But his is not an isolated case. There are thousands of Willinghams in prisons across the country. If not on death row, they are nonetheless serving decades-long or even life sentences after having been convicted on the basis of erroneous scientific conclusions made by poorly trained “experts.”
The editorial refers to the Senate Judiciary hearings earlier this month on forensic science, where Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld called for an expanded federal role in forensic reforms. The LA Times editorial calls for the creation of a federal entity to stimulate forensic research, set standards and enforce those standards.