State Forensic Science Commissions Final Report

A report recently released by NIJ provides an overview of considerations in planning for and developing a state-level forensic science commission, taking into account the substantial differences among states regarding governance, culture, statutes, and crime laboratory systems.

From the abstract:

Although only 10 states and the District of Columbia currently have statutorily created forensic science commissions, many more states have DNA commissions or informal advisory boards or are considering forming commissions. Existing state commissions vary significantly in their functions. Although this report is largely descriptive, detailing the experiences of current and past commission activities from various states, it also discusses “lessons learned” based on the experiences of states that have established a commission or other type of advisory board to address forensic science.

This report notes that a state forensic science commission can have a positive role in improving the work of forensic laboratories in its jurisdictions. Four functions are outlined: One function is to prevent or mitigate problems in forensic science laboratories or systems in a role as the investigators of misconduct or professional negligence. A second function of such a commission would be to ensure that national standards are implemented in practices through an accreditation system. Another function could be the coordination of state or grant funding that addresses areas of need or opportunities to implement technological or operational innovations. A fourth function of state forensic science commissions could be to improve cooperation among forensic science laboratories and stakeholders.

A discussion of planning for a state forensic science commission addresses legislative models, membership considerations, and staff and coordination. The functions of the commission in each of the 10 states are reviewed.

Click here to download the full 47-page report.


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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.