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Another Forensic Science Debacle, Another Teaching Moment

forensic science

Grades Matter                                                                     I read with interest the article from the Austin American-Statesman, “Bad grades, lapses in hiring process doomed Austin’s crime lab leader.”  The short version is, the Austin police department sought a new “chief forensics officer” to restore their currently closed DNA lab.   Scott Milne, who appears to have a bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry, was hired to do the job.  (No, the fact that they...

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PCAST issues well documented, well researched report on forensic science - Will this report's call be heard?

forensic science

PCAST issues report: Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods This morning, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released recommendations of actions to be taken to strengthen forensic science.  The report was written in response to a request from the president to ascertain whether there were “additional steps on the scientific side, beyond those already taken by the Administration in the aftermath of the highly critical 2009 National Research Council report on the state of forensic sciences” that would assist in ensuring the validity of forensic evidence used in court. During the...

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The need to vet forensic science experts

It’s every lab’s worst nightmare.  It’s every prosecutor’s worst nightmare.  It’s every defense attorney’s worst nightmare.  Which can result in every defendant’s worst nightmare.  When a crime lab employee lies about their credentials, the impact reverberates throughout the criminal justice system.  It can result in wrongful convictions.  It can subsequently result in proper convictions being overturned anyway, when the falsehood is discovered.  It needlessly calls into question the integrity of the lab.  Joseph Kopera. Annie Dookhan. It now appears we can add the name Fessessework Guale to the long list of those who falsified their credentials and testified in countless...

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The Making of a Murderer Case Back in the News

Attorney for Steven Avery, Kathleen Zellner, filed a motion for post conviction scientific testing on her client’s behalf on Friday, August 26, 2016.  According to the motion, “Mr. Avery has already completed a series of tests that will conclusively establish his innocence in conjunction with the additional forensic tests he is seeking. . . “ The victim, Ms. Halbach, was murdered on October 31, 2005.  The motion details a strange series of events, with supporting documentation, that establish some of Ms. Halbach’s voicemail messages were deleted after her death on October 31, 2015 but before her disappearance was reported on...

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