PULSE - Program on Understanding Law, Science & Evidence

FEBRUARY 18, 2010


Forensic science - from latent fingerprint analysis to firearms identification to DNA - is often among the most significant evidence introduced in criminal cases. Over the last few decades, it has also been the subject of significant controversy, with defense attorneys arguing that long-accepted forensic techniques lack scientific validation, and prosecutors vociferously defending their accuracy and reliability.

Last February, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a major and long-awaited report assessing the strengths and limitations of forensic science in the United States. The report explicitly criticized the lack of empirical and research basis underpinning some of the claims routinely made by many forensic scientists in court, and called for significant changes and major overhaul to our system of forensic science.  This NAS report, which spurred congressional hearings and was recently cited in the Supreme Court, quickly garnered a great deal of attention from scholars, practitioners, and political stakeholders alike.

One year after this report, what, if anything has changed? This public symposium takes the one-year anniversary of the report as an opportunity to reflect on the aftermath of the National Academy report, its effects on courts, practitioners, scholars, and the forensic science community. But even more important, this symposium look forward to ask what does the future hold for forensic science? Flashing forward one decade or two, what should we expect, what should we fear, and what should we hope for? In this one-day symposium, key stakeholders will consider and help to create a blueprint for the future of forensic science.

This symposium, organized by UCLA's new Program on Understanding Law, Science, and Evidence (PULSE), brings together leading participants the forensic science debates, including forensic practitioners, attorneys, law professors, psychologists, and judges, to engage in robust presentations and debates about the future of forensic science.


9:00 – 9:15 A.M.     

Introduction and Welcome

Stephen Yeazell
Jennifer Mnookin

9:20 – 11:00 A.M.         

Framing the Issues: What are the Central Debates Surrounding Forensic Science?

Michael Chamberlain
Dean M. Gialamas
Max Houck
Sheila Jasanoff
David Stoney
Moderator: Jennifer Mnookin

11:20 – 1:20 P.M.

Reflections on the NAS Report: One Year Later

Itiel Dror
Hon. Nancy Gertner
Jay Koehler
Michael Risinger
Jay Siegel
Moderator: Jerry Kang

2:20 – 4:00 P.M.

The Future of Forensic Science: Utopian Hopes and Rose-Colored Possibilities

Sam Gross
Glenn Langenburg
Jennifer Mnookin
Joseph Peterson
Norah Rudin
Moderator: Ingrid Eagley

4:20 – 6:00 P.M.

The Future of Forensic Science: Back to Reality. What Can – and Should – We Expect for the Future?

Simon Cole
Barry Fisher
Keith Inman
David Kaye
Kenneth Melson
Moderator: Stefan Timmermans