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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
evidence; critical issues and quality assurance, and deterministic versus probabilistic opinions of experts.”49
Pfefferli further notes that different members of the judicial community should benefit from customized training. For example, prosecutors and defense attorneys might benefit from a focus on the interpretation of and requirements for evidence; and judges may benefit from information on evaluating the scientific rigor of expert testimony and the reliability of forensic evidence.
At the end of the 1990s, NIJ noted that training for the judiciary was sporadic at the federal, state, and local levels and rare in general.50 Virginia is one state that provides annual seminars for the judiciary, and ASCLD formerly provided training to judges.
Reliance on DNA technology for identification purposes in forensic science spurred the development of judicial education programs. As part of the President’s DNA Initiative, the Department of Justice developed a series of publications and online training programs designed for officers of the courts, including judges. The course, “Principles of Forensic DNA for Officers of the Court,” released in 2006, is designed “to educate criminal justice professionals and other practitioners about the science of DNA analysis and the legal issues regarding the use of DNA in the courtroom.”51 The 15 training modules in the course include:
information on the biology of DNA;
the history of forensic DNA analysis;
how to understand a forensic DNA laboratory report;
factors in postconviction DNA testing requests;
information about forensic DNA databases;
issues involved in presenting DNA evidence in the courtroom;
information on the admissibility issues regarding the use of DNA evidence; and
an extensive glossary with basic definitions relating to forensic DNA analysis.
But other than this initiative, judicial education programs have not focused on the forensic science disciplines.
P.W. Pfefferli. 2003. Forensic Education & Training of Judges and Law EnforcementMagistrates. Presentation at the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law, 17th International Conference, The Hague. Available at www.isrcl.org/Papers/Pfefferli.pdf, p. 2.