Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New York Crime Lab: DNA: Major Development; ProPublica persuades federal judge to make a 'source code' public..." "We asked the judge make the source code public after scientists and defense attorneys raised concerns that flaws in its design may have resulted in innocent people going to prisoning to prison."..." Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York lifted a protective order in response to a motion by ProPublica, which argued that there was a public interest in disclosing the code. ProPublica has obtained the source code, known as the Forensic Statistical Tool, or FST, and published it on GitHub; two newly unredacted defense expert affidavits are also available. “Everybody who has been the subject of an FST report now gets to find out to what extent that was inaccurate,” said Christopher Flood, a defense lawyer who has sought access to the code for several years. “And I mean everybody — whether they pleaded guilty before trial, or whether it was presented to a jury, or whether their case was dismissed. Everybody has a right to know, and the public has a right to know.”...". Similar legal fights for access to proprietary DNA analysis software are ongoing elsewhere in the U.S. At the same time, New York City policymakers are pushing for transparency for all of the city’s decision-making algorithms, from pre-trial risk assessments, to predictive policing systems, to methods of assigning students to high schools. DNA evidence has long been a valuable tool in criminal investigations, and matching a defendant’s genetic material with a sample found on a weapon or at a crime scene has impressed many a judge and jury. But as new types of DNA analysis have emerged in recent years to interpret trace amounts or complex mixtures that used to be dismissed as hopelessly ambiguous, the techniques are coming under fire as overly ambitious and mistake-prone."..." The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation intervened in a case in California’s appeals court on Sept. 13 in support of a defendant’s right to review the source code behind a commercially available DNA analysis program called TrueAllele. “It’s a major credit to the court, the parties and ProPublica that the source code used in Mr. Johnson’s case will now be subject to public scrutiny,” said Brett Max Kaufmann, a staff attorney for the ACLU who is working on the California appeals case. “We urge other courts to follow this example when hearing cases involving similar types of evidence.”