Monday, September 10, 2012

Prof. Brandon Garrett asks where is the path forward for forensics? (Part 2); Huffington Post.

STORY: "Where is the path forward for forensics, Part 2," by Prof. Brandon L. Garrett, published on September 7, 2012 by the Huffington Post. (Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law, University of Virginia.)

GIST: "Scientists have called for a path forward -- what is the path? Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to lead a comprehensive scientific review of the state of forensics. Their 2009 report, ''Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward," called for the creation of a National Institute of Forensic Science to set standards and fund research. That report concluded that the entire system of forensics needs to be overhauled. The underlying science used for many types of forensics needs more support. On the subject of hair comparisons like that used in Gates' case, the report said that there are no "scientifically accepted statistics" on microscopic hair characteristics and no scientific support for using hair to individualize. But the report was not limited to hair or fiber comparisons, which are not used so often today. The report said that for a host of forensics ranging from bite mark to tool mark to fingerprint comparisons -- in fact all forensic used to identify individuals aside from nuclear DNA testing -- basic scientific research is needed to find out how reliable the techniques really are. Who is flying the plane? Who steps in if there is a scandal at a crime lab and bad work may have tainted old cases? On the research front, we have a National Institute of Health to oversee research for medicine -- why not an institute for forensics? We are willing to spend vast sums on forensics. Every year we continue to expand DNA databanks, for example. Yet very few criminal cases have testable DNA. Most criminal cases must rely on traditional forensics using the same sort of subjective comparison under a microscope that led to Gates' wrongful conviction. Scientific standards and oversight are urgently needed. That is what new federal legislation aims to do -- and that will be the subject of my third piece about forensics on the Hill. We could spend a fraction of what we spend on our massive system of DNA databanks to put the bulk of our forensics on firmer scientific ground."

The entire story can be found at:



In my efforts as a reporter at the Toronto Star to help expose the harm to so many individuals caused by the former Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors in the Chief Coroner's Office and elsewhere, I was often assisted on stories by a superb crime reporter, colleague and friend, named Peter Edwards. Peter has recently published an updated version of a book entitled "The Encyclopedia of Organized crime," along with legendary Quebec organized crime writer Michel Auger. In its review of an earlier version published in 2004, the Globe and Mail wrote: "With admirable diligence and dispatch, the authors harmonize the multiple solitudes that make up this vast nation into one fascinating, readable tome of transgression and terror." This fascinating book - published by McClelland - can be purchased at:

I heartily recommend it to our readers when they are looking forward to a well-deserved break from the intense, all-consuming world of forensic science.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.



I am monitoring many of the issues identified by Prof. Garrett. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.