Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A Path Forward on Forensic Reform

New reports proving that Texas executed an innocent man have underscored the critical need for forensic reform in the United States, and a hearing this month before Congress made it clear that bipartisan support exists for science-based federal forensic standards.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on forensic reform September 9, and a central topic was the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent man executed in Texas in 2004. Read below for more on the Willingham case.

Senators also focused on the recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences to establish an independent, science-based entity to oversee forensic science research and standards. Senator Al Franken called the NAS report on forensics “damning" and "terrifying," and in a report following the hearing, NPR noted the bipartisan support for a federal role in stimulating research, training forensic analysts and setting standards.

Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld appeared before the panel, along with Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt, a law professor, a lab director and two prosecutors. Neufeld was joined by Roy Brown, who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit in New York based in part on faulty forensic tests. Above is Neufeld, with Brown sitting behind him. Watch the complete Senate hearing here.

Visit the Just Science Coalition website here for more background on federal forensic reform proposals and to take action to support the creation of a federal forensic agency to oversee forensics.

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