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Forensic techniques sending people to prison may not be scientifically valid

Forensic techniques sending people to prison may not be scientifically valid


A new report to the White House questions the validity of some techniques

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The White House's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said in a report released Tuesday that widely used forensic techniques may not pass scientific muster, and should be reviewed for accuracy.

Justice Department has already rejected the recommendations

The advisory group's report said "feature-comparison" forensic techniques like bite mark comparison, analysis of firearms, and methods for DNA comparison should be better scrutinized, and new techniques should be given more attention for scientific validity in the future.

The techniques have been used for years, but their accuracy has often been the target of criticism. Tuesday's report was partly called for in response to a damning 2009 report calling into question the validity many forensic techniques that have sometimes been used in convictions that were later overturned.

The authors of the White House report said the committee drew on more than 2,000 papers and interviews with stakeholders to reach its conclusions. Among other suggestions, the report recommends the National Institutes of Standards and Technology release an annual report detailing evaluations of feature-matching techniques. It also suggests the Justice Department tell attorneys representing the government to make sure expert testimony is scientifically valid.

"We believe the findings and recommendations will be of use both to the judiciary and to those working to strengthen forensic science," the report reads.

Already, however, the Justice Department has said it rejects the recommendations from the report. "While we appreciate their contribution to the field of scientific inquiry, the department will not be adopting the recommendations related to the admissibility of forensic science evidence," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.