Posted: April 23, 2012 4:30 PM
Last week, the Washington Post exposed the incomplete work of a Justice Department task force assigned to review the FBI crime lab. Now, the Post is calling for action to ensure that other innocent people have not become implicated because of faulty forensics at the lab.
The task force’s review of the lab focused on the work of only one forensic examiner, when others have contributed to wrongful convictions as well. Moreover, the task force did not share the results of the review with defense attorneys or make an effort to contact the defendants involved. Donald Gates, exonerated through DNA testing in 2009, is one of several people whose wrongful conviction involved mistakes at the lab. It is still not known how many others might have been cleared.
The failings documented by The Post point to the need for better scientific standards in forensic testing and a more open process for the disclosure of evidence and information in criminal proceedings. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is weighing legislation to expand the role of the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to set such standards.
The FBI crime lab scandal (and the ensuing failure of the Justice Department to thoroughly investigate it) is an apt reminder of the need for a national forensic science entity as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. We support legislation that would create an entity to ensure scientific transparency and implementation of higher standards.
Read the full editorial.
Read more about federal forensic reforms recommended by the Innocence Project.
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