Are the United States, in a state of grave danger?
A recent U.S. National Research Council report found
systemic problems in the disciplines of forensic science and issued a call for a
revolutionary transformation of the field. This presentation will discuss the problems identified in the NRC report,
offering illustrations from actual criminal cases, and will assess the need for (and viability of)
the NRC's proposed path forward.
William Thompson, Ph.D. is a Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine
who studies the way people interpret scientific and statistical data and has also written extensively
about the use and misuse of DNA evidence. He represents clients in cases
involving novel scientific and statistical issues and consults with police departments, coroners and lawyers on a
variety of cases involving scientific evidence in the US, the UK, and Australia.
Failure to control for observer bias, finger print errors, perception errors, confirmation bias,
Failure to control for directed expectation, to disagree was not an expected response for subordinates
or lower standing experts, general scientific misconduct, false or
exaggerated testimony, falsification of scientific findings, falsification of
controls, individuals under duress & pressure to peform and deliver stated results,
making up results for tests not performed, misrepresentation of credentials/qualifications,
suppression of exculpatory evidence, inadequate facilities, a lab with known false
convictions, many retest inconsistencies (poor and wildly unpredictability reproducibility).
DNA wrongful convictions: what went wrong? eyewitness identification, forensic science testing errors,
false or misleading testimony by experts,
Do we need a new federal agency? MW~absolutely!
Do we need to separate forensic science from control of law enforcement?
Can existing institutions solve these problems? MW~ No, any existing institutions have continued to fail,
even substantially drop since the early days of forensic science being created by the hands of actual scientists, mathematicians,
chemists, physicists, biologists, medical doctors.
Judicial systems have had supposedly strong standards for scientific evidence,
yet has continued to fail in this area.
Appearance of conflicts of interest?