Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Department Of Justice Announcement Of New Forensics Initiative

[FRIDAY, Feb. 15—The Department of Justice and National Institute of Standards and Technology announced Friday a new commitment to improving the use of forensic science through the establishment of a National Commission on Forensic Science. Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former prosecutor, introduced the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Reform Act in the last Congress to improve the use of forensic evidence in criminal cases, and he held a hearing on the issue last year. Leahy signaled his commitment to forensics reform in a speech last month laying out the Judiciary Committee’s agenda for the 113th Congress.]

“For several years, I have emphasized the importance of reforming and strengthening the forensic sciences used every day in our criminal justice system.  It is important to establish rigorous standards that assist law enforcement and prosecutors in finding and prosecuting those who commit crimes and that help to prevent the conviction of innocent people.  That is why I have convened multiple hearings on this issue, and introduced in the last Congress the first comprehensive forensic science reform bill, the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Reform Act.  I am pleased the Department of Justice’s new initiative on forensics bears striking similarities to my proposal.

“My bill was a product of a thorough collaborative process with a full range of stakeholders ranging from forensic practitioners and law enforcement to academic scientists and defense attorneys.  I also shared my proposal and worked closely with the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and I am glad that Attorney General Holder has recognized this priority and has today announced an initiative that takes major strides to address this issue.

“There is much to be done to ensure that the forensic science used in our investigations and prosecutions every day inspires total confidence.  Today’s announcement is an important first step.  I will continue working to ensure that comprehensive legislation is considered and ultimately signed into law.”

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