In this past month the Executive Office of the President President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report to President Obama entitled "Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods." That report had a series of recommendations and findings.
According to Recommendation 1:
It is important that scientific evaluations of the foundational validity be conducted, on an ongoing basis, to assess the foundational validity of current and newly developed forensic feature-comparison technologies. To ensure the scientific judgments are unbiased and independent, such evaluations must be conducted by a science agency which has no stake in the outcome.
(A) The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should perform such evaluations and should issue an annual public report evaluating the foundational validity of key forensic feature-comparison methods.
Finding 4 was that
PCAST finds that bitemark analysis does not meet the scientific standards for foundational validity, and is far from meeting such standards. To the contrary, available scientific evidence strongly suggests that examiners cannot consistently agree on whether an injury is a human bitemark and cannot identify the source of bitemark with reasonable accuracy.
And Finding 5 was that
PCAST finds there are no appropriate empirical studies to support the foundational validity of footwear analysis to associate shoeprints with particular shoes based on specific identifying marks (sometimes called “randomly acquired characteristics). Such conclusions are unsupported by any meaningful evidence or estimates of their accuracy and thus are not scientifically valid.
So, what was the response by the Attorney General, the FBI, and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) to this report?
Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a statement indicating she would ignore the recommendations.“We remain confident that, when used properly, forensic science evidence helps juries identify the guilty and clear the innocent, and the department believes that the current legal standards regarding the admissibility of forensic evidence are based on sound science and sound legal reasoning,” Lynch said in a statement. “While we appreciate their contribution to the field of scientific inquiry, the department will not be adopting the recommendations related to the admissibility of forensic science evidence.”
Second, "[t]he FBI also said it disagrees with many of the findings of the report, which the agency said 'makes broad, unsupported assertions.'"
the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) released a statement saying its attorneys would continue using the forensic methods critiqued in the report because "adopting any of their recommendations would have a devastating effect on the ability of law enforcement, prosecutors and the defense bar, to fully investigate their cases, exclude innocent suspects, implicate the guilty, and achieve true justice at trial."
The attitude of law enforcement in response to this report is in a word, unbelievable. God forbid if science got in the way of getting a conviction.