It's Evident... NCSTL's Quarterly e-Newsletter
FROM THE DIRECTOR’S DESK... Carol Henderson
This column is a synopsis of NCSTL’s latest accomplishments.
NCSTL.org has had over 1,145,846 visitors.
People from over 170 countries search the growing database which contains over 142,718 records (8,500 are multimedia records). This past year thirty students contributed research to the database and earned legal pro bono credits toward graduation; 500 students have worked on the project since its inception.
NCSTL is developing a new online self-study course, “Locating, Evaluating, and Selecting Expert Witnesses,” in collaboration with The Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC) at the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service. The course focuses on the process and details of working with expert witnesses. It will be released in Spring 2015. For more information, see TECHNOLOGY AND DISTANCE EDUCATION NEWS below. This issue of It's Evident features articles related to using expert witnesses and the processes involved in locating, evaluating, and selecting them.
This week I am attending the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) 67th Annual Scientific Meeting in Orlando, Florida where I am presenting at the Interdisciplinary Symposium: “Past Presidents, Future Science: Hot Leads in Contemporary Forensic Research.” I am also participating in the International Affairs Committee, the AAFS Think Tank, and attending scientific sessions.
On February 2-3, 2015, I attended the Royal Society Meeting in London, “The Paradigm Shift for UK Forensic Science”, which was organized by Professors Sue Black and Niamh Nic Daeid from the University of Dundee, Scotland. Presentations focused on three themes: research in forensic science, beyond the state of the art; forensic interpretation and development; and scientific research and the law. The event was attended by more than 280 participants. I was invited to participate in a satellite meeting at Chicheley Hall after the discussion meeting in London. A small group of judges, scientists, policy makers, and lawyers met to discuss the current scientific landscape and vision of forensic science, scientific evidence types and their value, and to identify research gaps and make suggestions for additional research in law and science.
In October 2014, I made presentations at the International Association of Forensic Sciences Meeting, Seoul, Korea: A workshop, “Facing the Twenty-First Century Challenges to Expert Testimony: An Approach for Success” and at the AAFS IAFS session I presented "The Future Relationship of Law and Forensic Science: A Collaborative Model." I also served as Chair of a session on Law and Ethics.
I continue to serve as the Co-Chair of the Life & Physical Sciences Division of the Science & Technology Law Section of the ABA. I have been appointed to the Forensic Science in the Criminal Justice System Committee, ABA Judicial Division. The Committee is developing ideas for the delivery of forensic science education for judges and is presenting a symposium, "Can the Gatekeeping Function of the Court Improve the Quality of Forensic Science?” at Northwestern University on April 10, 2015.
I assisted in developing a CLE entitled “Art and Scientific Evidence: Criminal Investigation and Authentication” and it was presented by the Scientific Evidence Committee and the Museum and Arts Law Committee at the Annual ABA meeting in August 2014. This was the first ABA meeting which formally recognized the liaison between the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and the ABA Science & Technology Law Section. At the 2014 AAFS Board of Directors Meeting, I submitted a proposal for such a liaison and it was accepted. Both organizations worked together on a workshop which is being presented at the February, 2015 Annual AAFS Meeting.
Today, NCSTL’s “ONE-STOP-SHOP” database contains 20 types of resources in over 32 scientific evidence-related topics. NCSTL continues to develop and consolidate forensic-based information including webcasts, podcasts, blog links, and training materials which focus on science, technology and law topics. One can read current forensic-related news in the Spotlight section and It's Evident; locate events on the NCSTL Calendar; explore Education & Training resources; listen to talks given by forensic experts featured in the Multimedia section of the homepage; and subscribe to NCSTL's RSS Feeds. NCSTL uses Facebook and Twitter to broadcast the publication of the e-newsletter, online course material, updates to the database/website, and important news.
Wishing you all the best!
Bridging the Gap with Expert Witnesses
Brian Cochran, Crime Scene Investigator, Boone County, Kentucky
Why the Gap?
There has been an increased demand from the prosecution for forensic evidence and for experts to present that evidence. That demand has been driven by the public’s expectation for more and higher quality forensic evidence that in turn, has influenced juries to expect the same. Interest in the OJ Simpson trial and fictional television shows depicting crime scene investigations have led to real life expectations of forensic evidence in a wide range of cases.
In response to this demand, the number of crime scene units and other forensic services grew rapidly. Due to this rapid growth there was little standardization of methodology and terminology. Numerous professional organizations recognized this and made significant strides in standardization within forensic disciplines but widespread standardization has not been established. This rapid growth also attracted the attention of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS published “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: a Path Forward.” This report widely criticized the lack of standards within the forensic science community and called for actions to address them. As a result, forensic science experts are being challenged more frequently by the defense. Full paper
What Scientists Need To Know About The “Legal Method”: Two Examples
Judge Roderick Kennedy, New Mexico Court of Appeals, Director, American Academy of Forensic Sciences (Jurisprudence)
Not long ago I helped teach a class at a police forensic laboratory about changing practices in the legal world, and getting along better with the court system. As we were asking the lab directors what they most wanted us to talk about, the answer was universally, “do NOT talk about that !#@$%&!! National Academy of Sciences report!”  Forensic scientists apparently feel beaten to death with that little book, and are tired of lawyers harping on research, validation, and standardized testing and reporting. As the judge among the instructors, I was immune from any sense of obligation or propriety directed at those around me. Of course, I began my presentation with a quote from the NAS report.
Trends in Forensic Equipment to Watch
Victor W. Weedn, MD, JD, George Washington University, Professor & Chair, Department of Forensic Sciences
This article discusses four trends that Dr. Weedn predicts are areas students will need preparation in for the future. He has identified these areas/trends as follows: Instrumental Specialization, Field Portable Instrumentation, Quantification and Uncertainty Measurement, and Chemical Imaging. He writes, "Of course, I, nor anyone else, have a crystal ball, and others will come up with their own lists, but I am placing my bets on these trends!" Full paper
FROM THE RESEARCH DESK...
Diana Botluk, Director of Research
Check out the NCSTL exclusive forensic videos created by NCSTL Research Team: Diana Botluk, Kevin Paget, and Ellen Canon Mizio: Forensics of Firearms
and History of Fingerprints
Visit the NCSTL's Special Collections
from the collections.
TECHNOLOGY AND DISTANCE EDUCATION NEWS
Susan Zucker, PhD, Director Technology & Distance Education and Publisher and Editor of It's Evident
The new NCSTL-LEIC online self-study course, "Locating, Evaluating, and Selecting Expert Witnesses" will be released in Spring, 2015. The course focuses on the process and details of working with expert witnesses. The use of video and demonstrations rather than the common lecture method will be showcased. CLE for attorneys, POST credits for law enforcement professionals, and CE credits for forensic scientists are being sought. NCSTL.org will feature easy access to the course as will the University of Tennessee's site.