exclusive focus on Strengthening Forensic Science


Where’s The Science in Forensic Science?

Washington University Law School
November 15, 2018. 12:00 to 4:30 p.m.

Tracking by the National Registry of Exonerations reveals that of the more than 2,200 innocent people exonerated since 1989 from wrongful convictions sometimes decades old, a shocking 24% had trials that featured improper or invalid forensic evidence. Sometimes this involved deliberately false testimony by purported scientists, but more often it was the result of unvalidated forensic techniques or exaggerated testimony by analysts.

The advent of DNA exonerations has highlighted the flaws in much of the forensic evidence used in American criminal courts. A 2009 National Academy of Sciences report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States,” surveyed all of the various forensic science disciplines, from DNA to hair comparison, bite marks, ballistics, and more. The study found nearly all but DNA lacking in supporting validation studies. The NAS recommended many reforms to strengthen the reliability of forensic evidence. Yet, nearly ten years later the nation has seen little progress.

In 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report with recommendations for certain actions to strengthen forensic science and increase the reliability of its use in courtrooms. PCAST concluded there is a need for clarity about the scientific standards for the validity and reliability of forensic methods. It also described a need to evaluate specific forensic methods to determine whether they have been scientifically established as valid and reliable, especially forensic methods for comparing samples, such as DNA, fingerprints, hair, and firearms.

The Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences (CIFS) presents this inaugural symposium to bring esteemed scientists, lawyers, and policy experts together to discuss the state of forensic science and opportunities to build on the work of the NAS and PCAST. This symposium, and future CIFS efforts, will motivate the public to support efforts to strengthen the reliability of forensic science. Lawyers will learn which forensic techniques and methods should be challenged in court and scientists will discuss the testing required to determine whether the evidence is scientifically valid and reliable.

Missouri lawyers can earn 5.0 hours of CLE credit. Registration is required, and can be accomplished through the CIFS website here.

Symposium Agenda

Where’s The Science in Forensic Science?

Washington University Law School
November 15, 2018. 12:00 to 4:30 p.m.

12:00 Welcome: Prof. Keith A. Findley, University of Wisconsin Law School, founder of CIFS; Karen Tokarz, Charles Nagel, Professor of Public Interest Law,Washington University

12:10 Keynote Address: Radley Balko, Journalist, Washington Post, and Author, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South and Rise of the Warrior Cop

1:10 Where is the Science in Forensic Science? After PCAST, Where Do We Go From Here? Panelists: Jo Handelsman, Director, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and former Associate Director for Science, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Alicia Carriquiry, Statistician and Distinguished Professor, Iowa State University; Tania Simoncelli, Director, Science Policy, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Former Assistant Director for Forensic Science & Biomedical Innovation, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Peter Neufeld, Co-founder, Innocence Project, and Former Member, National Commssion on Forensic Science

2:35 Break

2:45 The True Crime Genre and Opportunities to Improve Forensic Science. Panelists: David Rudolf, North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer, featured in Netflix’s The Staircase; Jerome Buting, Wisconsin Criminal Defense Lawyer, featured in Netflix’s Making A Murderer, and Author, Illusion of Justice; and Dean Strang,Wisconsin Criminal Defense Lawyer, featured in Netflix’s Making A Murderer

4:15 Closing Remarks: Jo Handelsman

4:30 Reception and Book Signing in Crowder Courtyard

Thanks to our principal sponsor, Jason Flom, Founder & CEO, Lava Records and founding board member, Innocence Project, and to the host, Washington University School of Law.

MCLE: MO 5.0 credits.  Free and open to the public. Registration required.  To register for the symposium, go to  For more information, contact Professor Karen Tokarz,  or (314) 935-6414.