Courtroom Science

Balko wants to shield forensics from law enforcement:

The best way to begin mending the problems with the forensics system is to fix the incentives, aligning them so analysts are rewarded only for sound, scientifically supported work and punished for allowing their work to be influenced by bias, intentional or not.

[Roger Koppl, director of the Institute for Forensic Science Administration at Farleigh Dickinson University,] makes several specific recommendations in his paper for the Reason Foundation, which he and I summarized in a 2008 Slate article. The most important changes are taking state crime labs and medical examiner officers out from under the control of state law enforcement agencies and introducing a system of "rivalrous redundancy" for forensic analysis. To its credit, the Mississippi legislature is considering a bill that would have the state medical examiner report to an independent board of supervisors. Unfortunately, while the North Carolina bill changes the name of the state crime lab, it still puts the lab under the control of the State Bureau of Investigation, a police agency.