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The SciTech Lawyer Magazine - Future Focus for Forensic Science

NCSTL is pleased to announce the newest issue of The SciTech Lawyer, an ABA publication from the Section of Science & Technology Law, is now available. This special issue is edited by the Director of NCSTL, Carol Henderson, and features several articles written by NCSTL staff and frequent collaborators including Diana Botluk, Eileen Fynan, Jules Epstein and John Lentini. This issue deals with the future focus of many forensic science disciplines.

In the wake of the 2009 NAS report on forensic sciences and the recent termination of the National Commission on Forensic Science, the legal implications of forensic science disciplines are at a crossroads. From reliability to admissibility to properly training the judiciary about forensic sciences, a variety of new issues are rapidly emerging.



NCSTL Offered Fire Analysis and Document Examination Webinar June 28

NCSTL offered the next installment in its series of Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics webinars. Forensic Science Essentials: Challenges in Fire Analysis and Document Examination, was presented on June 28th from noon to 2:00 p.m. The on-demand webinar and course materials can be found in the Training and Education section of the NCSTL website.

The on-demand webinar is free and attendees who complete the course are eligible for CLE credit. This webinar was made possible by BJA Grant #2015-CP-BX-K006.



NCSTL Offers Live Seminar in Phoenix June 12-13

NCSTL presented a live training seminar in the Capital Litigation Initiative: Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics Training series. This two-day training seminar took place on June 12-13, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. More information and course materials can be found in the Training and Education section of the NCSTL website.

Intended for defense attorneys and prosecutors who actively try capital cases, the seminar covered forensic science basics, report writing, digital forensics, challenging evidence, discovery material, preparing for trial, expert witnesses, and the NAS Report.

Attendees earned CLE credit. Registration and travel expenses were provided for all eligible attendees. This seminar was made possible by BJA Grant # 2015-CP-BX-K006.



NCSTL Would Like to Announce Dr. Jose R. Almirall as our 'Scientist in Residence'

NCSTL would like to welcome Dr. Jose R. Almirall as our current Scientist in Residence.

Dr. Almirall is a Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Director of the International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI) at Florida International University. He was a practicing forensic scientist at the Miami-Dade Police Department Crime Laboratory for 12 years, where he testified in over 100 criminal cases in state and federal courts prior to his academic appointment at FIU in 1998. The interests of Dr. Almirall's research group include fundamental analytical chemistry and the development of analytical chemistry tools for use in forensic science including materials analysis, trace detection and analysis of drugs and explosives.

Dr. Almirall is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), the founding chairman of the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) of the AAFS, past Chair of the FBI-sponsored Scientific Working Group on Materials (SWGMAT) Glass subgroup, a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Forensic Sciences and was appointed to serve on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Department of Forensic Science Commonwealth of Virginia by two different governors of the State of Virginia. Dr. Almirall has served as a consultant to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on forensic science matters.



NCSTL Offered Toxicology Webinar May 31

NCSTL offered the next installment in its series of Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics webinars. Toxicology Essentials: Emphasis Opioids, was conducted on May 31 from noon to 2:00 p.m. More information can be found on the NCSTL website.

The webinar is free and attendees will earn CLE credit. Apply for registration.

This webinar was made possible by BJA Grant #2015-CP-BX-K006.



Wecht Institute to Honor Famed Criminalist

The Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University honored the work and career of Dr. Henry Lee, one of the world’s foremost criminalists, known for his work on the O.J. Simpson, Laci Peterson, JonBenet Ramsey, Caylee Anthony and Vince Foster cases, among others. Dr. Lee, who holds a Ph.D., was honored at the inaugural Pioneers of Forensic Science Conference on June 1-2 at Duquesne.

Dr. Lee, Connecticut’s Chief Emeritus of Scientific Services, has served as that state’s commissioner of public safety, Forensic Science Laboratory Director and Chief Criminalist. He is founder of the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science and is the namesake of its Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. Dr. Lee also serves as editor of several academic journals and has authored more than 30 books.

A full program agenda can be found here. Visit the conference website here for more information, such as registration, cost and continuing education credits.



New Grant Awarded to NCSTL

The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida, has been awarded an additional $400,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. This additional funding, part of BJA's Capital Litigation Initiative, allows NCSTL to expand its production of Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics live seminars and webinars. These sessions are designed to educate death penalty litigators, both prosecution and defense, in forensic sciences.



New online course offered: Locating, Evaluating and Selecting Expert Witnesses

The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law at Stetson University College of Law and The Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC) at the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service have launched an innovative online course Locating, Evaluating and Selecting Expert Witnesses.

The course has been approved for 3.5 General CLE credits and .5 CLE Ethics credits, 3.5 P.O.S.T. credits for law enforcement professionals and 1 American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) recertification credit. The course uses video clips in addition to lecture and PowerPoint to deliver an engaging type of CLE/CE. The course also demonstrates how the NCSTL database, which has over one million visitors from over 170 countries, may be used for research in scientific evidence.

This online course focuses on:

  • Factors that influence the selection of an expert
  • The importance of investigating an expert's credentials
  • How to make an informed decision of an expert's credibility
  • Legal standards of admissibility of scientific evidence
  • Attorney's ethics in dealing with experts

Register for the course.

NCSTL and LEIC are recipients of the prestigious August Vollmer Excellence in Forensic Science Award for Innovation in Forensic Technology (2010 and 2007 respectively) from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Our two organizations have collectively trained over 43,500 lawyers, judges, law enforcement professionals, and forensic scientists.



PCAST Report -- Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature Comparison Methods

PCAST Report

PCAST, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, released a report on September 20, 2016, discussing the role of scientific validity in the legal system. The report, Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods, evaluated validity of seven areas:

  • DNA analysis of single-source and simple-mixture samples
  • DNA analysis of complex-mixture samples
  • Bitemark anaysis
  • Latent fingerprint analysis
  • firearms analysis
  • footwear anaylsis
  • hair analysis
  • The report concludes by making several recommendations to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), the FBI Laboratory, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Judiciary.

    Several organizations responded to the PCAST Report, including:

    For more information on the PCAST Report, see https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/09/20/pcast-releases-report-forensic-science-criminal-courts



    INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

    NCSTL has forged associations with international centers of forensic excellence. Congratulations are due to two of NCSTL’s international colleagues, Professor Sue Black and Professor Claude Roux for their recent outstanding awards.

    Professor Sue Black, OBE, FRSE, PhD (University of Aberdeen) and Director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee was named to lead the new Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Dundee. The University was granted a £ 10 million award by the Leverhulme Trust to establish a research center aimed at shaping the future of forensic science. Earlier this year, Professor Black and her colleague, Professor Niamh Nic Daeid organized The Royal Society's Meeting, “The Paradigm Shift for UK Forensic Science” and led the working group meeting that followed at Chicheley Hall during which a small group of international judges, scientists, policy makers, and lawyers met to discuss the current scientific landscape, and to identify research gaps and make suggestions for additional research in law and science.

    Professor Claude Roux, BSc, PhD (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney was awarded the prestigious Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s Medal for Research Impact. The award acknowledged the outstanding contributions made by Dr. Roux's research outside the academic community. Examples of Dr. Roux’s accomplishments, among others, are new cutting-edge and validated methods and techniques for the analysis of forensic evidence, in particular in the areas of trace evidence and fingerprint detection and leading the development of a new discipline, forensic intelligence. Dr. Roux’s work has been fundamental to the development of forensic science in Australia over the past 20 years.



    Education and Training
    Capital Litigation picture

    A new grant in the amount of $400,000 was awarded to Stetson University College of Law for the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law (NCSTL) to develop a forensic evidence training program for lawyers who work on death penalty cases. “This training program is crucial at a time when life or death often hinges on the presentation of forensic evidence in the courtroom,” said NCSTL Founding Director and Professor of Law Carol Henderson.

    The grant, awarded by the U.S. Attorney General as part of the Adjudication and Law Enforcement National Initiatives, will support the development of a “Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics” program. The new training program will provide in-person and webinar training on forensic science evidence and the use of expert testimony.

    “Training in forensic evidence is essential to improve the quality of legal representation and to ensure reliable jury verdicts,” said Henderson. Stetson’s National Clearinghouse was developed to foster communication between the scientific, technological and legal communities, providing comprehensive scientific, technological and legal information to promote justice based on sound science and technology. The NCSTL has trained more than 13,500 legal and scientific professionals since its inception in-person and online. The NCSTL has released the following CLE/CE Programs: SANE-SART Training for Forensic Nurses, A Collaboration Between NCSTL and SANE-SART Resource Services, Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert, sponsored by National Institute of Justice (NIJ), housed on DNA.gov, billed by NIJ as "one of the most popular courses EVER", Forensic Science Course for Capital Litigators - Self-Study which focuses on forensic science. Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert has been a very popular course published on DNA.gov two years ago.

    Under grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), NCSTL has conducted many training in-person workshops on the use of forensic science in capital cases over the past several years. See Education and Training Section of this website. In 2016, two more in-person workshops will be conducted for prosecutors and defense attorneys - who litigate capital cases.

    Information about the in-person training and the webinars as well as the application required to attend the training will be posted here by the end of November, 2015.

    What is NCSTL?

    NCSTL.org is the only online resource in the world that concentrates on the nexus of science, technology, and the law. Focusing on forensic science and scientific evidence, NCSTL.org educates and shares information with scientists, legal professionals, law enforcement, academics, and the public.


    Learn more about NCSTL.org:


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    Calendar
    Tuesday Jul 25, 2017

    Capital Litigation Initiative Webinars: Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics Training

    In 2016 and 2017, NCSTL is offering a series of webinars about forensic science and scientific evidence. Funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance through its Capital Litigation Initiative, the webinars are intended for potential capital litigators, both prosecution and defense, who want to learn more about forensic science as it relates to capital cases.

    Attendees who complete the course are eligible for free Continuing Legal Education credits. Stetson University College of Law's Office of Professional Education will work with each individual participant for reporting specifics. Email ope@law.stetson.edu for further information and state specific requests.

    For more information about the course and CLE credit click here

    Forensic Science Essentials: Challenges in Fire Analysis and Document Examination

    Forensic Science Essentials: Challenges in Fire Analysis and Document Examination was a webinar offered by NCSTL on June 28, 2017. The webinar includes an overview of each discipline that addresses investigation techniques and types of evidence that can be obtained during scientific fire analysis and forensic document examination.

    Toxicology Essentials: Emphasis Opioids

    Toxicology Essentials: Emphasis Opioids was a webinar offered by NCSTL on May 31, 2017. The webinar includes a review of the basic toxicology and pharmacology of opioids followed by an overview of the opioid epidemic.

    Crime Scene Essentials

    Crime Scene Essentials was a webinar offered by NCSTL in partnership with University of Tennessee's Law Enforcement Innovation Center on March 2, 2016. The webinar covers identifying, documenting, processing, preserving and collecting of evidence.

    Crime Lab Essentials

    The Crime Lab Essentials webinar features an in-depth tour of the crime lab conducted by forensic scientists that covers five forensic disciplines: latent prints, toxicology, drug identification, firearms and forensic biology (DNA).