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Crime Labs and Dismal Science
Forensic Scientist trainee, Jessica Smith, looks over bullet casings at the Virginia State Forensics lab in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Jul. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A forensic scientist trainee looks over bullet casings at a forensics lab in Richmond, Va., in July 2008. (AP)

If your image of crime labs comes from shows like “CSI,” get ready for a shocker: a landmark report released yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences says we’ve got a problem when it comes to forensic science.

From fingerprints and ballistics to blood splatter and bite marks, America’s crime labs just aren’t cutting it. The report calls for a major overhaul — and calls into question decades of cases based on forensic evidence.

How we move forward will have a far-reaching impact on crime labs, courts — and American criminal justice.

This hour, On Point: Crime labs, and the future of forensics.

You can join the conversation. Have you ever wondered about the validity of forensic evidence? How it’s used in court? Do you have first-hand experience?

Guests:

Harry Edwards, co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences panel that put out the new report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” He’s a senior Circuit Judge and Chief Judge Emeritus for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit.

James Doyle, director of the Center for Modern Forensic Practice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. A veteran litigator, he’s the author of “True Witness: Cops, Courts, Science, and the Battle against Misidentification.”

Barry Fisher, director of the Los Angeles County Crime Laboratory. In 1969 he joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department crime laboratory and has worked in most of the sections of the laboratory. He’s past president of the American Academy of Forensic Science and the American Academy of Crime Laboratory Directors.

Barry Scheck, co-founder and co-director of The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people. He served on O.J. Simpson’s defense team, winning an acquittal in 1995 at Simpson’s murder trial.

More links:

Today’s Los Angeles Times runs a big piece on the new NAS report, along with an opinion piece by UCLA Law School’s Jennifer L. Mnookin.

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