News Break : National Commission on Forensic Science member quits due to DOJ

Another addition to the growing list of questionable agenda and actions involving this Commission. Previous blogs at talked  about how the bitemark sub-committee, its chairman and its dentist members, are all adherents to the “shaky” forensic science of bitemark identification.  And here. 

From  the WSJ

A Justice Department commission on forensic science has lost one of its most prominent members, Manhattan federal judge Jed Rakoff, who quit the advisory body in the wake of a decision not to let participants examine how forensic evidence is prepared for trial.

WSJ’s Devlin Barrett reports:

Judge Rakoff —a longtime jurist in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and a frequent critic of the Justice Department’s handling of financial misconduct cases—told colleagues of his decision in a letter Wednesday.

A copy of the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, said Judge Rakoff was recently told by the No. 2 official the Justice Department that the National Commission on Forensic Science wouldn’t look at how scientific evidence is shared in the discovery phase of trial preparation. “Discovery’’ is a term for the sharing of evidence by both sides ahead of a trial, so that each side can prepare to counter with its own evidence or legal argument.

Judge Rakoff noted that currently, federal prosecutors have fewer discovery obligations when it comes to scientific evidence than do plaintiffs in civil lawsuits. Judge Rakoff didn’t spell out which scientific areas most concern him, but many lawyers and judges have raised questions about ballistics, arson science, and handwriting analysis, among others.

Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said, “While the department is disappointed in Judge Rakoff’s decision, this was a basic disagreement about the scope of the commission’s work.’’ She said many of the suggestions concerning pretrial discovery have already been adopted by her office.

The National Commission on Forensic Science was set up in 2013 to improve the reliability of forensic science amid concerns that unreliable testimony from FBI experts and shaky science was being used to convict people.

Judge Rakoff, who serves on a number of panels related to how science is used in the courtroom, called the Justice Department’s decision “unsupportable.’’ The letter continued “I feel I have no choice’’ but to resign from the commission.

“If an adversary does not know in advance sufficient information about the forensic expert and the methodological and evidentiary bases for that expert’s opinions, the testimony of the expert is nothing more than trial by ambush,’’ Judge Rakoff argued in the letter to colleagues.

“Does the department have to be reminded of the many cases of grossly inaccurate forensic testimony that led to the creation of the Commission?” Judge Rakoff wrote.

 Article from the WSJ blog. 

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in Forensic Science Bias, forensic science misconduct, forensic science reform, prosecutorial misconduct and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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