Senators Consider Federal Forensic Reforms
Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today about the need for federal standards and for research in forensic science. And Neufeld and other witnesses found bipartisan support for a federal role in stimulating research, training forensic analysts and setting standards.
Forensics have been a central part of the criminal justice system for decades. Defendants are regularly convicted of crimes based on analysis of fingerprints, hair samples or blood spatters from a crime scene. A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences said many of those techniques have never been scientifically tested.
That report "is one of the most important developments in forensic science since the creation of the first crime laboratory in the 1920s," Case Western Reserve professor Paul Gianelli told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MI) called the report's conclusions "damning" and "terrifying."
With Neufeld at today’s hearing was Roy Brown, who spent 15 years in prison in New York for a murder he didn’t commit. He was convicted based in large part on faulty bite mark analysis.
"The forensic dentist [at Roy Brown's trial] used what was then the prevailing method of comparing bite marks found on a body with the dentures of a suspect," said Neufeld. "He examined them and decided that he had a match with Roy's bite. He so testified in court, and Roy was convicted."
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. (NPR All Things Considered, 09/09/09)
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