CSAFE sponsored an invited session, “Science and the Fair Administration of Justice” at the recent American Association for Advancement of Science 2018 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. In a discussion led by CSAFE Co-Director Hal Stern, CSAFE director Alicia Carriquiry, Director of the Innocenece Project Peter Neufeld and Texas Commission on Forensic Science member Lynn Garcia examined the role of the scientific community in ensuring justice.
Carriquiry discussed the importance of moving toward more scientific reporting by practitioners, and provided guidelines for conveying accuracy and certainty (or lack thereof) of measurements used in forensic analyses. Neufeld highlighted that forensic reports and testimony often exceed the limits of science as evidenced by the fact that of the 347 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing, 46% included misapplication of forensic science in the original trial. Neufeld provided the audience with examples of how these disconnects have manifested and how the research community can take its rightful role to ensure that evidence used in criminal justice is more accurate and just. Most crimes are prosecuted in state courts, and most forensic work is also done in-state. Garcia’s presentation reviewed the Texas model, where the state’s forensic commission has shown that stakeholder collaboration, transparency in prosecutions, and the willingness of forensic practitioners to face tough scientific issues are key components in improving forensic science.