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Dr. Itiel Dror - Cognitive Bias Essentials Webinar

The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law was honored to host renowned cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Itiel Dror, who presented the most recent offering in NCSTL's webinar series Capital Litigation Initiative: Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics. For the Cognitive Bias Essentials webinar, Dr. Dror spoke on The Use and Abuse of Expert Evidence: How to Expose and Mitigate Bias in Experts. View the webinar recording.

Webinars On Demand

Under the Capital Litigation Initiative, the Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics series currently offers eleven on-demand webinars on the following topics: crime scene processing, crime labs, pathology, toxicology, fire analysis, document examination, OSAC, certification/accreditation, electronic evidence, forensic psychology, and drug chemistry. Earn CLE credit as you watch these complimentary webinars. View more information and a full list of webinars.

NCSTL Offers Live Train The Trainer Seminars

NCSTL is hosting a complimentary seminar series called Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics: Train the Trainer. These live training seminars are part of the Capital Litigation Initiative Training. These two-day training seminars will focus on providing forensic information for people who will take that information back to their offices to teach their colleagues. Intended for defense attorneys and prosecutors who actively try capital cases, the interactive seminar will cover a variety of forensic topics with an emphasis on how to teach them. Keep checking back for information about the next live training opportunities.

Attendees will earn CLE credit. Registration and travel expenses will be provided for all eligible attendees. These seminars are made possible by BJA Grant # 2015-CP-BX-K006. More information can be found in the Training and Education section of the NCSTL website.

NCSTL Announces 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.

New Technology Uses DNA to Create Composite Sketches

According to an article in the Vancouver Sun by Lori Culbert, ďVancouver police have for the first time used an innovative technology that allowed them to create a composite sketch based on DNA found at the crime scene of an unsolved murder. They hope the picture will lead to fresh tips in the 2003 case.

The Snapshot analysis service ó developed by Virginia-based Parabon ó uses DNA to estimate the colour of an individualís hair, skin and eyes, as well as face shape, and then creates an image that should look similar to the person.

The composite is a scientific approximation of what the man police are searching for looked like, and not an exact replica of his appearance. Because DNA canít tell how old or heavy-set a person is, Parabonís composites show what people should look like at age 25 and at an average weight. Facial hair, scars and whether the person wore glasses are also unknowns.

Parabon developed this technology several years ago, funded by the United States Department of Defense. Skeptics have questioned how accurate the composites can be, but company officials say they are intended to provide enough of a likeness of a person to jog the memories of witnesses or to help police decide which suspects to focus on.Ē

Learn More About the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science works to strengthen the nationís use of forensic science by facilitating the development of technically sound forensic science standards and by promoting the adoption of those standards by the forensic science community.

These standards are written documents that define minimum requirements, best practices, standard protocols, and other guidance to help ensure that the results of forensic analysis are reliable and reproducible.

OSAC is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), but the great majority of its more than 550 members are from other government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. These members have expertise in twenty-five specific forensic disciplines, as well as general expertise in scientific research, measurement science, statistics, law, and policy.

To learn more about OSAC, forensic sciences and their place in the ever changing legal landscape, view our training materials and on demand webinar OSAC Essentials: Forensic Science Resources.

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