The 2009 NAS Forensic Science Report: A Literature Review
48 Crim. L. Bulletin 378 (2012)
17 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2012 Last revised: 25 Apr 2014
Date Written: April 12, 2012
In February 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its report on forensic science: Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2009). The popular press immediately trumpeted the report’s release, with headlines such as (1) “Report Urges Overhaul of Crime Lab System,” (2) “Real-life Police Forensics Don’t Resemble ‘CSI’: Reliability is ‘Low or Non-existent,’ Report Finds” and (3) “Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs.”
Within three months of its publication, Justice Scalia cited the report in a Supreme Court decision, writing: “Forensic evidence is not uniquely immune from the risk of manipulation. . . Serious deficiencies have been found in the forensic evidence used in criminal trials.” Both the Senate and the House held hearings, and a bill was introduced in Congress. In addition, the President appointed a committee on forensic science.
Several law schools held conferences on the report, and a number legal journals published symposia. Law review articles variously described the report as a “blockbuster,” “a watershed,” “a scathing critique,” “a milestone,” and “pioneering.” This essay briefly discusses some of these articles as well as aspects of the congressional hearings.
Keywords: forensic science, National Academy of Sciences Report, scientific evidence
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation