By Sarah N. Lynch

By Sarah N. Lynch

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department is reviving efforts that first started under the Obama administration to develop uniform standards governing what forensic experts are permitted to say during criminal trials.

 

The forensic science initiative, announced on Monday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a speech in Atlanta, will also entail setting up a monitoring program to ensure such experts are complying with the standards.

 

The department's forensic science efforts were first launched in 2016, after the FBI admitted the previous year that it had uncovered erroneous statements made by forensic experts who were testifying about their analysis of hair samples.

 

In those findings, the FBI found erroneous statements in at least 90 percent of the trial transcripts reviewed. The erroneous statements helped bolster prosecutors' cases by exaggerating the significance of microscopic hair analyses.

 

"Our uniform language initiative, and continuous monitoring program, will provide assurance that forensic analysis is used correctly," Rosenstein said in prepared remarks before the International Association for Identification annual conference. 

"That will advance the search for truth in federal courtrooms."

In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions temporarily halted the plans to create guidelines for forensic science expert testimony, and invited the public to provide comments on ways to improve the quality of the science underpinning forensic analysis.

He also let expire a commission of independent scientists, known as the National Commission on Forensic Science.

On Monday, Rosenstein said the department was tapping Ted Hunt, a former state prosecutor and prior member of the now-expired commission, to serve as its senior advisor on forensics.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Frances Kerry)