Washington, DC (Feb. 24, 2016) – Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates delivered important remarks today during the 68th Annual Scientific Meeting Hosted by the American Academy of Forensic Science in Las Vegas, Nevada. In those remarks, there is a clear recognition of the importance of the integrity and reliability of that which is admitted as forensic science in criminal trials in America. Forensic science "brings all of us closer to the truth—whether it's identifying the perpetrator of a crime or clearing the innocent," Yates said.
In her remarks, the Deputy Attorney General announced that the FBI will soon be soliciting bids "for an independent review—or 'root cause analysis'—to determine what went wrong and why in the hair analysis field." In addition, she announced that the Department is committed to taking a closer look at a wider variety of forensic disciplines.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said: "NACDL welcomes the Deputy Attorney General's effort to strengthen forensic science. The announcement concerning the 'root cause analysis' review is especially heartening. And the Association is delighted that the Justice Department has committed to looking at a wider array of disciplines. That said, as relates to the announcement that the FBI is preparing 'Approved Scientific Standards for Testimony and Reports,' we strongly urge the Department and the FBI to seek out the very best outside experts, on statistics and probabilities among other areas, as they develop these standards."
"This is the start of a significant change in the quality of forensic evidence introduced in criminal trials," said NACDL President E.G. "Gerry" Morris. "If the FBI shows the same commitment to straightening out the bad practices in the past in other pattern and impression practices as they have in the context of microscopic hair comparison, this will be a very good thing for the integrity of the American criminal justice system."
In her remarks, Yates also praised NACDL and the Innocence Project for the organizations' contributions:
"As many of you know, last April, the Justice Department released a statement with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) regarding the FBI's use of microscopic hair comparison analysis prior to the year 2000. Our joint review of lab examiners' testimony revealed that at least 90 percent of trial transcripts contained erroneous statements relating to forensic hair analysis. We take this matter very seriously, and I want to thank everyone at the FBI, the Innocence Project and NACDL for their unprecedented collaboration as we seek to identify past errors and ensure that justice is done in each case."
The United States Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Innocence Project, and NACDL reported in April 2015 that the FBI has concluded that the examiners' testimony in at least 90 percent of trial transcripts the Bureau analyzed as part of its Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review contained erroneous statements. Twenty-seven of twenty-eight FBI agents/analysts provided either testimony with erroneous statements or submitted laboratory reports with erroneous statements. The review focuses on cases worked prior to 2000, when mitochondrial DNA testing on hair became routine at the FBI. That review is ongoing.
Just last month, the first new trial was granted arising out of flawed microscopic hair comparison analysis testimony unearthed as part of this review. It was the case of George D. Perrot in Massachusetts, covered here.
Anyone involved in a case that utilized microscopic hair comparison evidence is encouraged to contact NACDL Post-Conviction Counsel Amelia Maxfield at email@example.com or 202-465-7646.
To learn more about the Microscopic Hair Comparison Review Project, please visit http://www.nacdl.org/haircomparison/.
To access of copy of NACDL's "Principles and Recommendation to Strengthen Forensic Evidence and Its Presentation in the Courtroom," please click here.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.