Throughout the semester we considered the need for strong science. We began this semester with a focus on the NAS report and before you join here, read Ballou, 2019.
Based on those resources and our previous discussions, let’s engage in a conversation on this matter. Obviously, you were not practicing forensic science in 2009, so instead let’s focus on what additional changes you think should happen. What innovations and changes would you like to see?
The Innocence Project commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the groundbreaking report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward with the following piece: Ten Years Later: The Lasting Impact of the 2009 NAS Report. Published Feb 19, 2019, it has been shortened as reproduced here below; the full article is available here) Links to an external site..
The National Academy of Forensic Science (NAS) released the report in 2009, and over the past 10 years, it has served as the foundation for much of our science-driven, policy-based reform and strategic litigation efforts. It established a blueprint for forensic science research, engaged the scientific research community and spurred various meaningful science-based criminal justice reforms. Importantly, it has fostered a new understanding of the intersection of forensic science and the criminal justice system, and it continues to influence an important debate on the courts’ gatekeeping responsibilities.
Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, reflects: Science and law have existed in two different worlds with contradictory principles and paradigms. Before the NAS report, forensics was held accountable only to the principles established by the law rather than science. The NAS report called on the scientific community to help the criminal justice system establish the resources and processes needed for forensics to move toward the promise of neutral truth teller. The progress that it set in motion cannot be understated—it is not an exaggeration to say that the report has freed innocent people and saved lives.
John Hollway, associate dean and executive director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, adds, “The intellectual rigor of the NAS participants and the depth of their investigation have spurred calls for reform and set an important bar for forensic review of potential evidence in criminal cases.”
The report primarily concluded that, except for nuclear DNA analysis, many commonly used forensic techniques had not undergone the necessary testing to establish sufficient validity and reliability to support claims made in court. The report called for research that would examine the scientific foundations and limitations of several critical forensic disciplines, including: bite mark analysis, microscopic hair analysis, shoe print comparisons, handwriting comparisons, fingerprint examination and firearms and toolmark examinations. According to the report, these forensic methods did not “have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”
Based on its findings, the NAS report made thirteen recommendations, including the creation of an independent, scientific oversight entity for forensic science, investing in research and standards setting, addressing cognitive bias in the practice of forensic testing and educating judges and legal practitioners. The Innocence Project heeded the call of the report and for the last 10 years, has been advocating with other scientific and criminal justice stakeholders for research funding, standards setting and oversight for forensic science practices.
Today, forensic science conversations between criminal justice and scientific stakeholders around the world begin with the NAS report. The forensic science field has experienced an evolution that would not have been possible without the report’s publication. Innocent people have been freed from prison, and consequently, the people who actually committed the crimes have been identified. The forensic science community has partnered with researchers to conduct research, improve forensic testing standards and implement new quality management practices.
You must compose three separate postings to be eligible for full points: first, establish a statement on your perspectives in approximately 200 words – what innovations and changes in forensic science would you like to see moving forward? Discuss the specific limitations in forensic science that your ideas would fix and why addressing these issues is important. Reflect back on our lab activities and in-person discussions. Be sure to engage each of the provided texts (i.e., cite both at least once). Then compose two response statements to your colleague’s posts. Your discussion will take place within the limits of your discussion section. This will allow you to refer to lab activities and shared experiences in your response.