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Does Forensic Science Need Fixing?

Under the Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006, Congress authorized the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a study assessing, among other things, the needs of forensic science and to make recommendations. Experts and scholars are gathering at Duquesne University this Friday, Sept. 11, to address Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States, the recently published report and recommendations by the NAS.

“The NAS report is very important. Many forensic science practitioners and scholars have known for years that there are long-standing, systemic problems that have impeded the development of many forensic science disciplines,” said Geoffrey Mearns, a member of the NAS committee that handled the critical task of examining the field of forensic science. “These problems have hindered the ability of law enforcement to apprehend criminals and, in some cases, contributed to the wrongful conviction of innocent people. The NAS report provides a comprehensive set of recommendations to solve these problems.”

Mearns is among the participants of Does Forensics Need Fixing, hosted by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law from 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Duquesne Union Ballroom. Seven hours of continuing legal education and Act 48 credits are available for those eligible attendees.

“The NAS report is the biggest thing to happen in the field of forensic science in the last 50 years,” said Dr. Fred Fochtman, director of the Wecht Institute. “It will definitely open doors to increased Congressional interest and possible funding for various educational programs. Does Forensics Need Fixing is the first and perhaps only public analysis of the report to occur in the Pittsburgh region.”

Does Forensics Need Fixing will include numerous panel discussions that will address the report’s critiques and proposed reforms, what it means to forensic science practice, the short and long-term perspectives as well as ethical implications for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

“If these NAS recommendations are fully implemented, public safety will be enhanced and the criminal justice system will be improved,” said Mearns.

Participants for Does Forensics Need Fixing include:

  • Dr. David Hassell, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s laboratory division
  • Dr. Thomas Bohan, president of the American Academy of Forensic Science
  • Michael Machen, chief public defender for Allegheny County
  • The Honorable Joseph A. Del Sole, former president judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and of counsel at Del Sole Cavanaugh Stroyd LLC

To register and for cost information, call 412.396.1330 or email wechtinstitute@duq.edu.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.