2206 Role of the Scientific Community in Forensic Science

Saturday, February 20, 2010: 9:10 AM
Room 7B (San Diego Convention Center)
Sarah P. Chu , Innocence Project, New York, NY
Historically, forensic science disciplines developed within the confines of police units or crime laboratories. In contrast, DNA analysis matured in academic science laboratories before it was adapted for forensic use. The application of forensic DNA analysis to post-conviction cases in particular, has resulted in 245 exonerations, showing convincingly that various errors were made in the original convictions. Although these errors derive from a variety of sources, including mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, and poor lawyering, erroneous or overstated forensic science has been shown to be a contributing factor in approximately half of the DNA exonerations.  These instances, in addition to more recent examples of erroneous forensic science conclusions highlight the lack of scientific underpinning of many forensic science disciplines. The National Research Council of the National Academies report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: a Path Forward, specifically explains the need to bring the practice of forensic analysis into a scientific framework. To do so, the report recommended the creation of an independent, science-based entity to support research in extant and developing forensic science disciplines, set national standards for their use, and to govern the practice of forensic science. The Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system, has actively supported implementation of the report’s primary recommendations. This presentation will discuss the present status of this legislation in Congress, the role that scientists must play in the future of forensic science, and the challenges present in such an endeavor.
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