Reports and Publications
Chris Swecker and Michael Wolf were retained by the NC Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the Forensic Biology Section of the SBI Crime Laboratory. The investigation began in March 2010 and focuses on policies, procedures and practices between 1987 and 2003.
- Case Information – The News and Observer created a database of the cases identified by the Swecker Report. The online database allows you to sort the cases by prosecutorial district or by analyst involved.
- Additional 75 cases – In March 2011, an SBI internal review of serology cases revealed an additional 75 defendants whose cases were affected by the same problematic reporting practices as the 230 cases identified in the Swecker Report. The additional cases were discovered when lab staff hand-reviewed files that had been screened electronically for the Swecker investigation.
- The Wolf Memo – Michael Wolf’s provided a summary of Forensic Serology Laboratory Reporting Policies from the FBI and other states around 1990/1991.
- The News and Observer published Chris Swecker’s previous report to the SBI regarding SBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dwight Ransome and related SBI policies and procedures. This report was commissioned by the Attorney General’s Office following Ransome’s involvement in the Alan Gell case. Recommendations from this report included changes to the SBI’s Report Writing Manual, additional training regarding obtaining and preserving documentary evidence, and confirmation from relevant DA’s offices that potential exculpatory material was provided in specified SBI investigations.
by Frederic Whitehurst, 2004. This 2-part article provides a checklist of items to request in discovery from a forensic lab and explains the significance of each item. NACDL membership is required to access these articles.
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report (known as the PCAST report) in September 2016. This report assesses the scientific validity and reliability of some important forms of forensic evidence and of testimony. In Jan. 2017, PCAST published an addendum to their report which is available here.
by Paul C. Giannelli. This paper addresses the scientific, law enforcement and legal reasons for a lack of research across many forensic disciplines from a historical perspective as well as in light of the National Academy of Sciences’ report. Click on “one-click download” to view the full text article.
by Brandon Garrett and Peter Neufeld, Virginia Law Review, Vol. 95, No. 1 (2009) – a study of the forensic science testimony by prosecution experts in the trials persons later exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing.
- No Longer the Gold Standard: Probabilistic Genotyping is Changing the Nature of DNA Evidence in Criminal Trials
Author: Bess Stiffelman Esq.
Report submitted by Judge Vince Rozier during his time as Ombudsman to the SBI. The document includes a memo by Judge Joseph John responding to the recommendations of the Ombudsman. The report was released by the SBI in Aug. 2011.
NIJ-funded research that looked at 460 violent felonies between 1980 and 2012 to determine what factors led to a wrongful conviction of an innocent defendant instead of dismissal or acquittal. Factors identified by researchers include: a younger defendant, a criminal history, a weak prosecution case, prosecution withheld evidence, lying by a non-eyewitness, unintentional witness misidentification, misinterpreting forensic evidence at trial, a weak defense, defendant offered a family witness, and a “punitive” state culture.
The National Resource Counsel authored this manual to assist judges in cases involving scientific and technical evidence. There are chapters on admissibility of expert testimony, DNA evidence, statistics, toxicology, medical testimony, and many more forensic topics.
2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (known as the NAS Report) which found serious problems in forensic science research and practice and recommended an overhaul of the current structure that supports the forensic science community.
by Jennifer L. Mnookin, Simon A. Cole, Itiel E. Dror, Barry A. J. Fisher, Max M. Houck, Keith Inman, David H. Kaye, Jonathan J. Koehler, Glenn Langenburg, D. Michael Risinger, Norah Rudin, Jay Siegel, and David A. Stoney. Explores to what extent forensic sciences need to change to develop a well-established scientific foundation. Finds that a research culture, grounded in empiricism, transparency, and a commitment to an ongoing critical perspective needs to be developed.
- Commentary by Judge Nancy Gertner on The Need for a Research Culture in the Forensic Sciences
From the Blog
- Some attorneys have asked how they can keep up with the latest developments in forensic evidence. Along with subscribing to newsletters from this site, below is a list of websites and electronic newsletters that can help keep attorneys informed about forensic evidence issues: News Forensic Magazine – can subscribe to receive a daily email of …
- NC attorneys may be aware that software programs are being adopted by crime laboratories to assist with interpreting complex DNA mixtures. The NC State Crime Laboratory is working on validating a procedure for the use of STRmix probabilistic genotyping software, which will likely go online in the coming months. It is crucial that attorneys understand …
- Amicus Lab post on Duke Law Forensics Forum, 5/22/2019
- Staying informed on forensic issues, 5/17/2019The new Forensic Resources website now offers email newsletters that will allow you to stay up-to-date on upcoming forensic trainings, blog posts, news articles, and specific forensic disciplines of interest to you. To subscribe, simply enter your name and areas of interest here. You’ll get notified when we post new content on the website and …
- The American Statistical Association and Royal Statistical Society of the UK has published a special issue devoted for forensic evidence. The April 2019 issue, Forensic Science and Statistics, is a collaboration of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) and the Innocence Project. The April 2019 issue contains six articles focused on …
- June 2 – 7, 2019: New York City, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law The National Forensic College is an advanced, week-long forensic science CLE designed for experienced trial and post-conviction defense litigators. It features the foremost national experts in a wide range of forensic disciplines and presents a truly one-of-a kind opportunity. The Forensic …
- Duke Law School will host two forensic evidence programs in March 2019. Getting Forensics Right: Strengthening the Connection Between Forensics, Statistics, and Law Ten Years After “A Path Forward” https://law.duke.edu/events/scientific-evidence/ Wednesday, March 6, 2019 • 12:30 PM • Law School 3037 What are the stakes when forensics go wrong? Keith Harward will tell his story: …
- Police Manuals, 1/25/2019Attorneys may find it useful to review police procedure manuals to understand the applicable rules of conduct for the relevant law enforcement entity in their case. These rules are referred to as “policies and procedures,” “general orders,” “general directives,” “codes of conduct,” or “manuals.” Many police departments across the state have their manuals available for …
- Do you know how to access the lab procedures for the NC State Crime Laboratory? It is important for attorneys to review these procedures so that they understand how the laboratory evidence in their case was analyzed. The method for accessing lab procedures changed in 2018. Previously, there were links to the current lab procedures …
- Scientific Terminology Explained, 9/4/2018If you’d like to learn more about scientific terminology, Duke Law student Logan Johnson interviewed toxicologist Dr. Jay Gehlhausen about terminology that attorneys might encounter when reviewing scientific evidence. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between reproducibility and repeatability? What is the difference between accuracy and precision? What are blanks and controls? Please …
- No Longer the Gold Standard: Probabilistic Genotyping is Changing the Nature of DNA Evidence in Criminal Trials
Author: Bess Stiffelman Esq.
Registration is now open to attend the Evidence Management Conference hosted by NIST with sponsorship from the National Institute of Justice!
- Attend the first conference ever to focus solely on physical evidence management—the preservation, storage, tracking, and disposition of these critical assets in our nation’s criminal justice system.
- Presenters will discuss the current state of evidence management and efforts to develop and disseminate best practices.
- Discussion topics will include: defining roles evidence management; tracking and automation; safety and handling; standards and policy; facility design; and the latest science on evidence stability.
There is also a call for poster and exhibitors. Poster and exhibitor sessions will take place during the conference on October 2nd and 3rd from 11:30 am – 2:00 pm. Click here for more information.
For crime laboratories, transferring forensic science research into practice is a challenging problem. Thousands of research papers are published in forensic science journals every year, yet many innovations never make it to the crime lab.
What can the forensic science community do differently so that new technologies come online faster? How can obstacles to successful innovation be reduced?
On June 19-20, 2019, NIST will convene a symposium in Gaithersburg, MD aimed at answering these questions. Forensic scientists, researchers, and technology transfer experts will come together with laboratory professionals, business leaders and other stakeholders to explore ideas for speeding innovation in the nation’s crime labs. Plenary presentations will be webcast on June 19th 8:30 am – 2:30 pm and June 20th 10:15am – 11:15am ET. Registration information is available here.
Tara Godoy, BSN, RN, LNC presents on the review of medical records for the 9th Judicial Circuit Public Defender in Orlando, FL. She will explain what to look for in medical records, how to break them up in to more manageable pieces, how to digest medical history within them, and how to find evidence of drugs of abuse. She will also touch briefly on time of death as would be found in a medical examiners report and how to interpret evidence of bruising.
The National Forensic College will be held on June 2-7, 2019, at Cardozo Law in New York City. The Forensic College is an advanced, week-long forensic science CLE designed for experienced trial and post-conviction litigators. The Forensic College prepares attorneys to litigate complex forensic science issues strategically and with the support of the nation’s leading law firms and experts. Attendance is by application only and space is limited. Since one core objective of the Forensic College is to train trainers so as to broadly elevate standards of practice in the defense community, the participants include training directors from federal defender offices, public defense organizations, and managed assigned counsel programs. This year the Forensic College has reserved 20 slots for private attorneys. The Forensic College is especially eager to identify private lawyers who may be involved in planning or implementing defense or wrongful conviction training programs in their communities, or those at law firms who may wish to participate in cutting-edge forensic litigation.
Topics for 2019 include Pattern Evidence, Digital Evidence, DNA (including an advanced track), Eyewitness Identification, Blood Pattern Analysis, Shaken Baby Syndrome/Abusive Head Trauma, Medical Evidence n Sexual Assault Cases, plus statistics in forensics, and development of police accountability databases by defenders and the private bar. For more information, visit www.nacdl.org/NFC2019.
The tuition cost of the Forensic College for private attorneys is $1,199 for the full six-day program. Understanding that it may be difficult for some lawyers to attend for the entire week, you may request to enroll for a specific day(s) only. Lodging is available at a hotel convenient to Cardozo Law School located near Madison Square ($280/night). Also, some dormitory lodging is available at the rate of $683 for the entire week.
The Forensic College is presented in collaboration with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Defender Services Training Division.
For more information about presumptive and confirmatory tests, the School of Government has posted a 30 minute online program that you can view for free or for CLE credit
Symposium of the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences and the Center on Wrongful Convictions. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Agenda and registration information is available here.
Forensic Nurse Tara Godoy provides information about types of bruises whether bruising can be dated by color.
The National Forensic Science Technology Center created this website to explain in simplified terms the principles of each type of forensic analysis and how the analysis is performed. Topics include DNA, digital evidence, fingerprints, firearms, trace evidence, blood stains, and more.
Center dedicated to legislative, systemic, and direct service efforts to improve integrity in forensic science.
NACDL’s list of crime lab and forensic scandals from 2007-2015.
A collaboration between the Orlando Public Defender and the National Center for Forensic Science at UC Florida. The site has links to many helpful training videos that help attorneys understand forensic science evidence.
February 1999 report by the National Institute of Justice that addresses the challenges facing the forensic science profession. Contains analysis and recommendations that complement the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report.
The Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services Forensic Resources Unit assists and supports criminal defense attorneys in the public counsel and private counsel divisions of CPCS in the litigation of forensics issues in their cases. Their websites contains educational information about various forensics disciplines.
A comprehensive website of forensic science resources. Be sure to try the searchable database which locates books, articles, cases, law reviews and websites based on the topic of forensic science that you search.
This database contains information on all known exonerations in the U.S., dating back to 1989. This is a joint project of the University of the Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.
The National Judicial College has posted this article containing a comprehensive list of resources on scientific evidence for judges and other legal professionals.
Vol. 1-5 available in the IDS Forensic Library. Forensic Resource Counsel also has access to the latest edition of the eBook.
This book by Professor David. A. Harris looks at why wrongful convictions occur and seeks to explain why law enforcement and prosecutors resist adopting improved forensic practices. The first chapter can be downloaded for free by clicking on the “Download This Paper” button. Available in the IDS Forensic Resource Library.
Motions and Briefs
Motion to produce records related to firearms examinations, videotape evidence, latent or trace evidence, and DNA analysis.
- Order of Dismissal with Prejudice – 2011 Superior Court order dismissing the charge of first degree murder with prejudice where forensic evidence was destroyed prior to the defense having the opportunity to examine it, despite defendant’s filing of a motion to preserve evidence. The Court found that material and favorable evidence to the defendant was intentionally destroyed and that the defendant suffered irreparable prejudice as a result of the violation of his constitutional and statutory rights.
- Court of Appeals decision – reverses the trial court’s order granting the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Vacates trial court’s order imposing discovery sanctions against the State.
Suit against five former agents with the State Bureau of Investigation, filed on June 28, 2011
2012 Supplement to MAR that addresses implications of false and misleading testimony by former SBI Agent Duane Deaver.
Sample discovery motion from murder, AWDWIKISI, and arson case.
Sample discovery motion from Feb. 2011 requesting expanded discovery in light of revelations of the SBI’s practice of misstating test results and withholding exculpatory evidence.
Sample motion by Buddy Connor for defense testing of evidence, as well as testing procedures, bench notes, and complete results of testing performed by the state.
Sample discovery motion drafted by Elizabeth Hambourger. Please contact Sarah Rackley Olson for copies of the exhibits included in this motion.
Sample motion by Buddy Connor
Sample Notice of Objection pursuant to N.C.G.S. 90-95(g) and 90-95(g1) to introduction into evidence of chain of custody statement and lab reports without further authentication and testimony of the analyst.
- Order Allowing Testing and Inspection of Firearms Evidence and to Transport Evidence to Defense Expert
Order granted in 2009, filed under seal until case was resolved.
Sample Order drafted by Buddy Connor
Sample Order drafted by Buddy Connor requiring law enforcement officers to turn over all notes, evidence, and materials related to the investigation of the case to the prosecution and certify that all such materials have been turned over.
Order recusing Judge Haigwood from hearing matters raised in the Defendant’s MAR. The order includes the finding of fact that the Defendant raised a claim of prosecutorial misconduct related to forensic testing by the SBI and that the claim concerning undue prosecutorial influence over SBI agents where the Defendant asserts that Judge Haigwood could possibly be a witness places Judge Haigwood (a former elected District Attorney) in a position where his impartiality may reasonably be questioned.
2008 order granting the defendant requested discovery regarding SBI data and testing procedures.
2013 motion to be used for independent testing or re-testing of toxicology evidence.
2015 motion that can used for preservation of evidence in cases involving forensic evidence.
Sample motion provided by Buddy Connor requesting SBI testing procedures and underlying data that have not been turned over despite a previous court order.
Signed into law by Governor Beverly Perdue on March 31, 2011. Sections 1-5 and 7-11 became effective when the act became law. Section 6 (Ombudsman position) becomes effective on July 1, 2011.
- Discovery Procedure NC Gen Stat 15A-902
- Disclosure by the State – Information subject to disclosure NC Gen Stat 15A-903
- Disclosure by the State – Information not subject to disclosure NC Gen Stat 15A-904
- Disclosure by the Defendant – Information subject to disclosure NC Gen Stat 15A-905
- Disclosure by the Defendant – Certain evidence not subject to disclosure NC Gen Stat 15A-906
- Continuing Duty to Disclose NC Gen Stat 15A-907
- Forensic analysis admissible as evidence NC Gen Stat 8-58.20
- Preservation of biological evidence NC Gen Stat 15A-268
Rules of Evidence – Opinions and Expert Testimony
- Rule 701 – Opinion testimony by lay witness NC Gen Stat 8C-701
- Rule 702 – Testimony by experts NC Gen Stat 8C-702
- Rule 703 – Bases of opinion testimony by experts NC Gen Stat 8C-703
- Rule 704 – Opinion on ultimate issue NC Gen Stat 8C-704
- Rule 705 – Disclosure of facts or data underlying expert opinion NC Gen Stat 8C-705
- Rule 706 – Court Appointed Experts NC Gen Stat 8C-706
Section 6 of this law extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited from October 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013. Section 6.1 clarifies which State Crime Laboratory employees are required to become certified.
Extends the time for local forensic science labs (other than the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory) to become accredited from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2016.
Foundations of Forensics in the News
- How do we reconcile law and science?, by Radley Balko, Washington Post, 8/7/2019
- Trade secret privilege is bad for criminal justice, by Jason Tashea, ABA Journal, 7/30/2019
- The death penalty is racially biased, fiscally irresponsible and very inaccurate, by Rebecca Brown, The Hill, 7/29/2019
- Work Group Learns Safe Evidence Handling, JUNO, 7/18/2019
- How much should juries rely on expert testimony?, by Radley Balko, Washington Post, 7/16/2019
- Anonymous reporting line for forensic science professionals launched (UK), 7/2/2019
- We need to fix forensics. But how?, by Radley Balko, Washington Post, 6/20/2019
- 10 Years Later, Independence Should Be the Future of Forensics, by Jonathan Griner, Forensic Magazine, 6/6/2019