Forensice Science and Standards Bill Introduced in Senate, House

Innocence Project
July 19, 2012

The science committees of both houses of Congress introduced a bill to address forensic science issues, hair comparison is still used beyond its scientific parameters, and problems are identified at crime labs in North Carolina and Minnesota. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:

Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV of the Senate Commerce Committee and Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Donna Edwards and Daniel Lipinski of the House Committee on Science introduced the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2012 amid concerns raised by a recent Washington Post investigative series that exposed the use of faulty microscopic hair comparisons in the wrongful convictions of three men.

Despite the recent Washington, DC cases that demonstrated the problems with microscopic hair comparison techniques, the practice is still being used.

The St. Paul Police Crime Lab shut down its controlled drug analysis unit after a court case revealed that the lab lacks written standard operating procedures for drug analysis and evidence handling, and conducts no ongoing proficiency testing for staff in its controlled substances laboratory.

North Carolina prosecutors have been scrambling to identify cases that could have been compromised by forensic analysts who did not pass their certification tests. The Buncombe County District Attorney filed a motion to compel the state to turn over information about the failed exams.