Innocence Project calls on chemists to support forensics reform.
A group that has used DNA evidence to free nearly 300 wrongly convicted people from prison reached out to scientists this week, asking chemists to engage with forensic science. Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, an organization based in New York that investigates potential wrongful convictions, asked researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to do more to improve the troubled field of forensic science.
Complaints about the unreliability of some scientific evidence used in courts worldwide are long-standing, and a 2009 report by the US National Research Council called for major reforms to the US forensic-science system, including better standardization of protocols and more research into the reliability of methods used. The US Congress is now considering a bill that would provide money for forensics research and require the US National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish standards in the area (see ‘Proposed bill calls for better forensic science’).
But despite such concerns, little has changed on the ground, says Justin McShane, an attorney at the McShane Firm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who works with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and serves as co-chair of the ACS Division of Chemistry and the Law. “It’s still a Wild Wild West out there in forensic science.”