The NAS Report on Forensic Science: A Glass Nine-Tenths Full (This is About the Other Tenth)
12 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2009 Last revised: 9 Apr 2010
Date Written: July 21, 2009
The NAS Committee Report, STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES, issued in February of 2009, was a milestone in the decades-long struggle to get those who control the production and utilization of forensic science expertise to admit the various weaknesses of some of the techniques involved, and to take steps to strengthen the reliability of those techniques and their products. The NAS Committee Report is in some ways the culmination of those efforts, and has made it now untenable to dismiss criticisms as simply the cavils of uninformed academics with nothing better to do.
In this sense the report is a glass nine-tenths full, and is to be celebrated as such. But then there is the other tenth, the tenth that may, as an unintended consequence, delay needed reform significantly and unnecessarily. The most significant part of this unwise tenth is the decision not to push strongly for the immediate adoption of masking and sequential unmasking protocols in forensic science practice, but instead to call for “more research” on the issue in advance of moving forward.
This paper explains in detail why the “await more research” approach is misguided.
Keywords: evidence, criminal practice, criminal procedure, forensic science, expert witnesses, expertise, blind testing, sequential unmasking, NAS Committee report
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