Goals

exclusive focus on Strengthening Forensic Science

What are the Goals of CIFS?

The practical goals of the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences (CIFS) fall within three overlapping areas: legislative, systemic, and direct service.

 

Legislative
  1. Promote crime laboratory independence as well as education, training, and public outreach.  Laboratory independence includes—
    1. Management structure independent of any law enforcement officer or institution.  Top managers of crime laboratories should be persons with strong educational and experiential credentials in the natural sciences, forensic sciences, or both
    2. Funding streams that are independent of law enforcement agency budgets
    3. Crime laboratories should be housed outside of law enforcement facilities
  2. Educate the public on why statutory bases for relief on direct appeal, collateral attack, or other post-conviction remedy should be expanded to permit courts to vacate a conviction when the prisoner or petitioner can establish—
    1. Material and significant advances in forensic science that undermine reliability of forensic science testing, testimony, opinion, or other evidence used to obtain the conviction; or
    2. Scientific consensus has changed and no longer supports forensic testing, testimony, opinion, or other evidence used to obtain the conviction; or
    3. Forensic science testing, testimony, opinion, or other evidence used to obtain the conviction otherwise was misapplied, overstated, false, mistaken, or unreliable for any reason.
Systemic
  1. Work to change and strengthen hiring practices at crime laboratories.  Forensic analysts at crime laboratories should have significant educational background in the natural sciences or forensic sciences, including at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, or forensic science
  2. Eliminate subjective, unvalidated, unfalsifiable, or otherwise unreliable areas of forensic opinion and analysis, both from crime laboratories and from courtrooms.  Areas of forensic opinion or analysis that have unknown or indiscernible error rates, whether false positives or false negatives, fall within the class of such opinion or analysis that are unworthy of crime laboratories and courtrooms
  3. Continue efforts to reduce, or where possible eliminate, confirmation bias in the work of forensic analysts
  4. Encourage research universities and universities and colleges with strong programs in natural sciences to create Departments of Forensic Sciences, generally not under the control of criminology or police science programs or curricula
  5. Work to strengthen accreditation systems and accrediting organizations for crime laboratories and to make them independent of law enforcement institutions and agencies
Direct Service
  1. A clinical program at the University of Wisconsin that allows law students to collaborate with both undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences to work in—
    1. Trial courts, and
    2. Appellate courts or in collateral attacks or other post-conviction remedies
  2. A strike force composed of CIFS staff lawyers and volunteer lawyers from all regions of the United States.  This strike force would be available to provide pro bono help to lawyers who seek to exclude or rebut unreliable forensic testing, testimony, opinion, or other evidence.  It also would be available to lawyers who simply seek to understand an area of forensic science better
  3. Regular training programs for lawyers, judges, law students, and scientists on developments in forensic science and best practices
  4. Liaison with scientific organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences and scientific working groups, and other academic communities interested in forensic sciences
  5. Efforts to improve the sophistication, rigor, and accuracy of judicial oversight of the admission of forensic testing, testimony, opinion, and other evidence
  6. Throughout, a recognition that innocence or possible innocence alone cannot be a limiting criterion of CIFS’s work in any area.  Rather, the essential criterion must be the reliability of forensic sciences, in theory and as applied