Monday, April 13, 2009

Why Crime Labs Need to be Independent

Opinion published last week in USA Today makes it clear why crime labs need to be independent--an important recommendation from the recent report from the National Academy Sciences.

In part, the opinion piece says:

Over the past decade, in fact, scandals have ensnared more than 200 officials, from clerks to lab directors; cast doubt upon thousands of convictions, including rapes and murders; and created statewide legal tangles that have cost millions of dollars.

In a report issued in February, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that science in the justice system desperately needs an overhaul. Many necessary steps are backed by wide consensus. Among them are more money to erase huge testing backlogs and improve research, mandatory accreditation for labs and training requirements for technicians.

But one idea — moving crime labs out from under the management of law enforcement agencies — has sparked opposition from groups representing crime lab directors and managers. The NAS expert panel made the recommendation after a disturbing pattern emerged: When crime labs break the rules, through deliberate falsification or unintentional sloppiness, the results overwhelmingly favor prosecutors.

Read more here.

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