Forensic Standards bill could “transform” forensic science and get rid of bitemark IDs


A new bill introduced last week in the US Congress could put some “teeth” into creating and then enforcing federal standards for the practice of 11 forensic disciplines either criticized or debunked (aka bitemark pattern testimony) by the 2009 National Academy of Science’s extensive review.

It is significant that the Innocence Project (IP) has been central  in getting this proposed legislation on track for consideration. Notably absent is any comment from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to this action. The IP has been proactive within this largest forensic organization on numerous forensic science reform issues. This, year Sally Yates, Deputy US Attorney General  (the boss of the NIJ which is a huge finding source for US forensics), gave a cheerleading presentation informing the AAFS that change is coming to the largely law enforcement employed AAFS membership.

This proposed bill puts much of what is done in US forensics within federal control.  At what cost, remains to be seen. A similar but unsuccessful 2014 bill asked for $101M over 5 years.

Interesting. Lets hope the  bitemark zealots don’t get on the review panel as they have in the last two government review attempts by NIST and the National Commission on Forensic Science.

From Forensic Magazine: 

A federal office to set forensic science standards could be created, as part of legislation introduced in Congress last Friday.

The bills seek to “establish standards and protocols across forensic disciplines,” according to the short summaries.

The legislation comes amid other review of forensic standards that have been used at crime scenes and in courtrooms for decades – and amid growing doubts concerning some disciplines, such as hair follicle analysis and bite marks.

The bills are not yet available online. The drafts (S 3259 and HR 5795) are sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX, 30th Dist.). The pieces of legislation have already been referred to committees.

The establishment of such an office was welcomed by the Innocence Project, which has used evolving DNA methods to overturn 342 wrongful convictions.

“We look forward to working with members of both chambers to pass this critical legislation,” said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, in a statement. “Providing law enforcement with scientifically-backed forensic tools that aid in accurately identifying the real assailants is the best way to protect everyone’s safety while also insuring that innocent people are not wrongly accused and convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.”

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences did not return a request for comment on the legislation.

A previous bill that would have established an entity called the National Forensic Science Coordinating Office was recommended by the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in 2014. However, the legislation was not passed. Estimates for the implementation of the office ran to $101 million for the first five years of transition.

READ MORE: National Review of Forensics Underway, Could be ‘Transformational’

Currently, a “transformational” review of national forensic practices is already underway at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ten disciplines are being put under the AAAS microscope. First up is ballistics and tool markers, latent fingerprints and arson investigations. Those are already underway. The next seven are: bloodstain pattern analysis, digital evidence, footwear and tire tracks, bitemark analysis (bold added), fiber trace evidence, hair trace evidence, and trace evidence of paint and other coatings, according to the AAAS.

The review was prompted by the National Academy of Sciences scathing report released in 2009 entitled, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.”

Sarah Chu, a senior forensic policy advocate at the Innocence Project, said the two new bills would continue the progress made at the federal level.

“This legislation allows Congress to formally authorize the substantial work the federal government has undertaken – and would assure the work is continued and funded into the future,” Chu said.



About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in AAFS, ABFO and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Forensic Standards bill could “transform” forensic science and get rid of bitemark IDs

  1. Jane Risdon says:

    Totally fascinating. I am in Britain but still find your posts so informative and fascinating. As a crime writer I have to keep up to date and so read as much as I can about Forensics, and I have completed 3 online forensic courses with reputable universities and professors. Thanks so much for being such a valuable resource. Really appreciated. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s