News 02.18.09

Major U.S. Report Calls for “Massive Overhaul” of Forensics

The National Academy of Sciences released a report this afternoon that could transform forensic science in the United States.

The report, released by a diverse committee of scientific and legal experts who have spent two years studying these issues and holding public hearings at Congress’ request, recommends the creation of an independent, science-based federal entity that would direct comprehensive research and evaluation in the forensic sciences, establish scientifically validated standards and oversee their consistent application nationwide.

Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld, who testified before the panel at two of its five hearings, said today’s report is a “major breakthrough.”

“For too long, forensic science professionals have not had the support or management needed to identify the real strengths and weaknesses of different assays and techniques,” Neufeld said. “This report provides the roadmap for rectifying that problem, and we look forward to working with Congress and other key stakeholders to implement the report’s recommendations.”

And members of Congress reacted to report in the hours after its release.

"People’s lives hinge on the results of these forensic tests and scientific rigor must be applied in each and every case to make sure that justice is truly served,” said U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “I will study the National Academy’s recommendations very carefully and propose legislation to address the need for standards, including best practices and certification and accreditation of forensic professionals.”

Rep. John Conyers, the chairman of the U.S. House of Represenatives Judiciary Committee, called the report a “wake up call.”

“Our nation’s forensic science community needs our increased support and direction in order to ensure that criminal justice is more science-based, more reliable, and ultimately more just,” Conyers said.

Read more reaction from exonerees, crime victims,

forensic experts and others here

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