In The News


2017-11-09 | NY Chief Judge Directs Judges to Remind Prosecutors, Defense Attorneys of Their Duties
The new order “provides a mechanism by which to educate inexperienced prosecutors and defense attorneys—and remind experienced ones—about their constitutional and ethical duties,” the Empire State’s court system said in their Wednesday announcement. The Brady material would include all exculpatory material that could be favorable to the defendant, either through attacking the credibility of witnesses, reducing the scope or severity of the crime, or otherwise offsetting the prosecutions’ arguments. The defense attorneys would have to keep the client informed about the case, provide reasonable advice for plea offers, and conduct investigations of case facts and relevant case law, they add.

2017-10-20 | Federal Judge Unseals New York Crime Lab’s Software for Analyzing DNA Evidence
Caproni’s ruling comes amid increased complaints by scientists and lawyers that flaws in the now-discontinued software program may have sent innocent people to prison. Similar legal fights for access to proprietary DNA analysis software are ongoing elsewhere in the U.S. At the same time, New York City policymakers are pushing for transparency for all of the city’s decision-making algorithms, from pre-trial risk assessments, to predictive policing systems, to methods of assigning students to high schools. DNA evidence has long been a valuable tool in criminal investigations, and matching a defendant’s genetic material with a sample found on a weapon or at a crime scene has impressed many a judge and jury. But as new types of DNA analysis have emerged in recent years to interpret trace amounts or complex mixtures that used to be dismissed as hopelessly ambiguous, the techniques are coming under fire as overly ambitious and mistake-prone.

2017-10-18 | Court: Examine if Austin crime lab botched death penalty evidence
“Areli Escobar’s capital murder conviction rests on forensic evidence developed by incompetent scientists using bad science,” defense lawyers with the state Office of Capital Writs said in his latest appeal. Austin police officials closed the DNA portion of the crime lab in June 2016 after an audit by the Texas Forensic Science Commission found that some staff members were not properly trained and that incorrect methods were used to examine DNA samples. “In light of these developments, a comprehensive, independent review of … Mr. Escobar’s case is critical,” defense lawyers told the Court of Criminal Appeals.

2017-09-25 | First Large Scale Study of Cocaine Users Leads to Breakthrough in Drug Testing
The study involved taking fingerprints from a group of patients seeking treatment at drug rehabilitation centres, as well as a larger group not known to be drug users. All of those taking part washed their hands before the test in a variety of ways, and then samples were collected on the prepared chromatography paper. The fingerprint is developed using chemicals, so that the ridges of the fingerprint (and therefore the identity of the donor) can be established prior to analysis. When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolise the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue. Importantly, the traces can still be detected even after handwashing.

2017-09-07 | Constitutional Requirement to Litigate Scientific Evidence
The Supreme Court revised the standards for admissibility of scientific evidence and expert witness testimony through the seminal cases of Daubert, Joiner and Kumho Tire. The controversial issues of reliability, peer review, error and uncertainty rates, and standardization still adversely affect competent use of forensic science.

2017-09-06 | FBI and NamUs Partnership IDs Victims, Killers, Unknown Nationwide
Instead, the breakthrough was made through a new partnership in 2017 between the FBI and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs. The pilot program began in February with a massive backlog of prints which had never before been examined by the FBI. Since then, a steady stream of “hits” from the unidentified deceased have produced hundreds of names, faces—and leads. What began as a pilot program in February has already transitioned into the normal workday routine for the some 35 FBI fingerprint examiners—although the results have proven to be anything but routine.

2017-09-06 | Speaking of Error in Forensic Science
In recent years, high visibility errors have occurred at crime labs in almost every state. These have ranged from simple mistakes, such as mislabeling evidence, to testimony that overstates the scientific evidence, to criminal acts. The latter category includes dry-labbing, which is when an examiner fraudulently claims to have performed laboratory analyses which in fact were never done. Dry-labbing is not an error—it’s a crime—but if it goes undiscovered, there is a problem with error management. The cost of these cases, whether the result of simple mistakes or criminal malfeasance, have been incalculable. Innocent people have spent years behind bars, countless criminal cases have been thrown out due to tainted evidence, and the cost of litigation has soared.

2017-09-01 | Austin Police Partner With UNT Health Science Center
In the aftermath of its lab’s closure, the Austin Police Department will now send a majority of its faulty DNA cases to the University of North Texas Health Science Center to determine if retesting must be done. On Thursday, Austin City Council approved a contract to allow the center to review and analyze DNA cases that were tested by APD’s lab before it shut down in June 2016. Prior to the shutdown, the Texas Forensic Science Commission found APD’s DNA testing procedures were outdated or improper, causing already tested cases to be reanalyzed and creating a backlog.

2017-08-24 | Thousands of DUIs May Blow Away
Tens of thousands of drunken-driving cases could be thrown out across the state because officials withheld damning information about its flawed breath tests, according to defense attorneys who are asking a judge to “impose significant sanctions against the commonwealth.” “This is a really big deal,” said Joe Bernard, the attorney who made the allegations in a motion filed in Concord District Court on Saturday. “The fact that this information was not revealed to thousands of citizens is mind-blowing.”

2017-08-21 | IntegenX Applauds the Passage of the Rapid DNA Act of 2017
Similar to how fingerprint analysis has evolved from a paper and ink practice to a point-of-action technology, DNA testing has now become possible in 90 minutes within a booking station, while a suspect is still in custody. With processing times reduced from weeks to less than two hours, the potential to identify or exonerate a suspect quickly will make a meaningful impact on law enforcement.

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