Scientific evidence can seem daunting. with proper preparation, however, defense lawyers can master scientific evidence just as they master the other critical evidence in their cases.
Articles in this Issue
A Burning Question
The evidence appeared overwhelming. A late afternoon explosion and fire in a large garage packed with cars and boats, where county sheriffs, the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) investigators determined there were “multiple areas of origin.”
NACDL Affiliate News
From the President: One Year in the Fight for Justice
Steven Benjamin summarizes the work accomplished by NACDL from August 2012 through July 2013.
NACDL News: Interns and Law Clerks Attend Criminal Justice Lunch Series
As part of its summer intern program, NACDL hosted a series of four educational lunches for its interns and law clerks and interns from other organizations focused on criminal justice.
NACDL News: NACDL Calls for Strong Intent Requirements in Federal Criminal Law
On July 19, 2013, the newly created Congressional Task Force on Overcriminalization held its second hearing, this one focused on “Mens Rea: The Need for a Meaningful Intent Requirement in Federal Criminal Law.” NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer was one of two witnesses appearing before the task force on July 19. The other witness was Georgetown Law School Visiting Professor John S. Baker, Jr.
NACDL News: NACDL Joint Report Offers Steps To Eliminate Racial Disparities In Criminal Justice Syst
Issued July 17, 2013, a groundbreaking report — Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System — examines the profound racial and ethnic disparities in America’s criminal justice system and provides concrete ways to overcome them.
NACDL News: NACDL Sounds Alarm Over Inadequate Funding of Federal Indigent Defense System
Austerity measures, including sequestration, have placed a disparate burden on America’s federal defender system, with no commensurate reduction in the resources available to the prosecutorial function. Federal public defenders have been forced to lay off and furlough attorneys, close offices, and eliminate training; without significant additional funding, federal defenders will be dangerously overburdened and attorneys who accept court-appointed cases will likely face lengthy delays in payments and significant economic hardship.
NACDL News: NACDL Speaks Out Regarding Ongoing NSA Revelations
On July 2, 2013, NACDL issued a statement concerning recent reports of extensive domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. In it, NACDL expressed profound concern with ongoing revelations suggesting that the U.S. government is engaged in a wholesale, round-the-clock infringement of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. Among the concerns raised specific to the constitutionally outlined role of defense counsel in the American criminal justice system is the sanctity of the attorney-client and work product privileges, as well as the use of secret evidence in criminal proceedings.
NACDL’s Annual Rejuvenation (Inside NACDL)
Isaac Kramer introduces NACDL members to the organization's new leaders and the students who worked at NACDL during summer 2013.
As noted in this month’s NACDL News, NACDL partnered with several other organizations to sponsor a conference in October 2012 focusing on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. NACDL asked attendees to provide reflections and put forth recommendations that might lead to the reduction or elimination of disparities. The practical solutions in these seven articles provide a road map for reform. Read the NACDL report at http://www.nacdl.org/reports/eliminatedisparity.
Reclaiming Voir Dire
Identifying jurors who are subject to challenges for cause is an indispensable component of due process.1 Trial by an impartial jury is the most precious of the safeguards for “individual liberty and the dignity and worth” of every person.2 In terms of securing this fundamental right, it is no exaggeration to say that voir dire is the most important part of trial. Too often, this process is frustrated in four ways. First, many courts impose time limits on lawyers during voir dire that impermissibly burden the process of seating fair jurors. Second, many courts improperly interfere with the form of questions and the topic matters they allow lawyers to introduce. Third, many courts engage in extremely aggressive “rehabilitation” of challenged jurors. Fourth, many lawyers do not object to these unfair practices. This article argues that these practices violate the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury, undermine public confidence in the criminal judicial system, and must be challenged by criminal defense lawyers.
The Continued Abrogation of Due Process and Fair Trials (Military Commissions Perspective)
The attorney-client privilege is among the most fundamental rights possessed by a defendant represented by counsel in a criminal case. Likewise, the right of a defendant to be present during trial and the right of confrontation are constitutional requirements for a fair trial. Why then does the government get away with infringing on these rights when a case involves national security information?
The Hair Microscopy Review Project: An Historic Breakthrough For Law Enforcement and A Daunting Chal
NACDL staff members are working with the Innocence Project and the FBI to review thousands of cases in which the use of microscopic hair comparison evidence may have resulted in wrongful convictions. NACDL needs all defense lawyers in the United States to aid in this effort to identify cases — regardless of whether the FBI was involved.
Third Arms, Scottish Sheep, and Jurassic Park: Understanding Scientific Evidence
Scientific evidence can seem daunting. Many lawyers feel much less comfortable dealing with it than they do with other types of evidence. Being intimidated by an opposing expert, or lacking the confidence to explain complex principles to a judge or jury, can leave a lawyer feeling handcuffed with respect to what can sometimes be the most critical evidence in her case.
TV Review: West of Memphis
The documentary West of Memphis actually tells two stories, that of a criminal prosecution that resulted in unjust murder convictions of three Arkansas teenagers and that of the media, first in reporting the case and then as a driving force in challenging the convictions.