In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences produced an exhaustive study of the state of forensic science in the United States. The report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, was a rude awakening for the entire criminal justice system as to the state of forensic science in our country, and particularly took lawyers to task for not understanding forensic science at all. In response, the Pa. Innocence Project sought to provide that education for Pennsylvania prosecutors and defense lawyers.
Collaborating with Arcadia University and the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education, we developed a 16-hour course to cover topics including death investigations, DNA, fingerprints, chemistry, and arson and explosives. Leading practitioners and scientists are conducting the courses, and lawyers are getting hands-on experience with the techniques to better understand their applications and limitations.
In the early evening of September 12, 30 prosecutors and public defenders gathered in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania for the first lecture. Dr. Barry Logan, the Executive Director of the Center, covered the first topic on Death Investigations and Forensic Toxicology. The course will go through October 31, meeting each Thursday evening to cover a different area of forensic science.
It is the goal of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project to provide educational opportunities for all members of the criminal justice system to ensure the fair administration of justice.