Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Report on Forensic Science in the Criminal Courts Released

According to a press release from the White House, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has released its report "Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods." Relevant links are listed below.

Blog post (available at 6am): https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/blog

Full report: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST/pcast_forensic_science_report_final.pdf

Additional materials can be found at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast/docsreports

According to the release, the recommendations—which are directed at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory, the Attorney General, and the judiciary—include:

NIST should perform evaluations, on an ongoing basis, of the scientific validity of current and newly developed forensic feature-matching technologies and should issue an annual public report on the results.

NIST should take a leadership role in transforming three important feature-comparison methods—DNA analysis of complex mixtures, latent-fingerprint analysis, and firearms analysis—from currently subjective methods, with their heavy reliance on human judgement, into objective methods, in which standardized, quantifiable processes require little or no judgment.

OSTP should coordinate the creation of a national forensic science research and development strategy.

The FBI Laboratory should undertake a vigorous research program to improve forensic science, building on its recent important work on latent-fingerprint analysis.

The Attorney General should direct attorneys appearing on behalf of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure expert testimony in court about forensic feature-comparison methods meets the standards of scientific validity.

The Attorney General should revise and reissue for public comment the DOJ proposed “Uniform Language for Testimony and Reports” and supporting documents to bring them into alignment with standards for scientific validity.

When deciding the admissibility of expert testimony, Federal judges should take into account the appropriate scientific criteria for assessing scientific validity.