June 8, 2017

DNA evidence is commonly seen in courtrooms. But the tools and strategies to analyze it are constantly changing and improving. This week’s Forensic College, co-sponsored by Cardozo Law and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, offers insight and discussion of forensic issues and how those issues are treated in a courtroom setting. 

The Fourth Annual Forensic College, taking place at Cardozo Law June 4-9, is presented in collaboration with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Defender Services Office Training Division. Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project and Cardozo professor of law, is a key organizer of the program. Scheck co-founded The Innocence Project at Cardozo in 1992, which continues to this day around the nation, using DNA evidence to help free innocent people who have been unjustly incarcerated. 

The college instructs supervisors, trainers and experienced litigators who are or will be the forensic science experts in their jurisdictions; the courses prepare attorneys to litigate complex forensic science issues strategically and with the support of the nations's leading law firms and experts.

Sessions include training on practices such as how to validate forensic methods, understanding the science behind DNA, introduction to DNA evidence and fingerprint analysis, among others.

Laura Nirider, co-director of the Center for Wrongful Conviction of Youth at Northwestern University, spoke about evaluating and litigating cases involving false confessions, such as the coerced confession of Wisconsin’s Brendan Dassey, highlighted in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer.”

Nirider told the audience 20% of DNA exonerations involved false confessions, mostly in murder cases, and the burden is on the litigator to “convince the jury not to pay attention to the false confession…to make people understand why it is coerced and unreliable.”