In a 5-4 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that defendants have the right to cross-examine forensic analysts who handle scientific evidence in criminal cases. In finding that defendants have the right to question analysts, the majority wrote that forensic findings are open to interpretation and could be manipulated. The court also cited a recent report on forensics from the National Academy of Sciences and Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion said: “serious deficiencies have been found in the forensic evidence used at criminal trials.”
The Innocence Project, as part of the Innocence Network, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, urging the court to recognize that forensic evidence can’t be trusted as neutral fact. The majority cited the Innocence Network brief in its opinion.
Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld said today that although today’s decision is an important step forward, the court’s opinion underlines the need for national forensic standards ensuring that science in criminal trials is reliable and fair.
“This is an important decision that will help defendants expose faulty evidence at trial, but it doesn’t resolve serious underlying problems with forensic science. Too often, our criminal justice system relies on evidence that is not rooted in solid science, which is why Congress needs to create a National Institute of Forensic Science.
“Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences called on Congress to create an independent, science-based agency to stimulate research and set and enforce standards long before forensic evidence reaches court. Today’s ruling underscores the need for Congress to take action.
Visit the Just Science Coalition website to
sign the petition for Congress to create a federal Office of Forensic Science Improvement and Support