With the presidential transition of power days away, an interesting report from the President's Counsel of Advisors on Science and Technology caught our attention.
Forensic science in the military is widely accepted as reliable. And it's a reputation the forensic sciences do not always deserve. The counsel released their report in September 2016. The President had concerns about whether there were steps that could be taken to improve the forensic sciences.
The counsel was specifically looking at pattern identification evidence - DNA, bite marks, fingerprints, firearms analysis, etc. They wanted to know whether the science was reproducible and reliable. In other words, foundationally valid.
It's amazing that the report did not garner more attention. The PCAST found only single source DNA analysis to be valid in foundation and in application. DNA mixture evidence - when there is DNA from multiple persons - was only foundationally valid. In other words, the science is trustworthy, but the application of science leaves concerns about potential error.
Firearms identification was potentially valid, but surprisingly not enough studies had been done. Footwear analysis completely lacks research. And bite mark evidence was met with significant skepticism.
In the end, it's our hope that juries and judges start taking a more critical view of forensic evidence.
The National District Attorneys Association was, of course, critical of the report.