Yesterday the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST“) released a final Report finding that many of the forensic science techniques used to prosecute criminal cases do not meet scientific standards. Specifically, the Report raised issues with the use of tool-mark analysis (ballistics), bite mark, hair, footwear and other evidence used in criminal cases all over the country. This is yet another critical look at the state of forensic science and the way it is used to convict people at a staggering rate.
The Report said:
PCAST concluded that there are two important gaps: (1) the need for clarity about the scientific standards for the validity and reliability of forensic methods and (2) the need to evaluate specific forensic methods to determine whether they have been scientifically established to be valid and reliable. Our study aimed to help close these gaps for a number of forensic “feature-comparison” methods—specifically, methods for comparing DNA samples, bitemarks, latent fingerprints, firearm marks, footwear, and hair.
Despite the Report’s recommendations, the Attorney General stated that the Department of Justice will not adopt the recommendations in relation to the admissibility of forensic science as evidence at trial. This comes only a few days after DOJ issued a Memorandum addressing certain changes in their policy towards forensic evidence and releasing a code of professional conduct for forensic analysts.
The ongoing struggle of the validity of forensic science in the courtroom and ways to improve the reliability of the science is ongoing. This is an incredibly important topic in terms of criminal defense because of the likelihood that a jury will believe “scientific” evidence over other potentially more reliable evidence because they are told that it is, in fact, science. If you have been charged with a crime and the evidence includes any kind of forensic evidence it is important to contact an attorney that is familiar with the challenges of forensic evidence.