Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why what happens next in Houston is important

Houston's Forensic Science Local Government Corporation (LGC) has selected a nine-member team of experts to help put its forensic lab back together. One of the stars of the team, Dr. Clifford Spiegelman, is a distinguished professor at Texas A&M who has written papers that have changed the way investigators look at evidence.

Spiegelman said the team wants to change the way things are done. "Right now, the standard testimony is when there's a match, they testify that, to a practical certainty, this is the only weapon that could have fired the bullet," said Spiegelman. "The experiments don't support that. And what we're going to be looking at is error rates."

Error rates? Statistics in forensic science? Where have I heard that before?

According to the City of Houston website, The Houston Forensic Science LGC was established by Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston City Council as an independent city-chartered organization to assume the operations of the current Houston Police Department Forensic Division. Could this be just a one-off thing, happening only in Houston as a reaction to local events? Or, could this be the beginning of a nationwide trend - a response to the NAS Report?

Only time will tell.

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