Task Force on Forensic Science Update - Sept 2022 - Part I

Screen capture of Zoom meeting
Michigan Forensic Science Task Force - Sept 2022

The September meeting opened with the Forensic Science Statewide Body Subcommittee (FSSB). They have been working to determine where the FSSB is best housed within the state government. They outlined three areas of concern they wanted to address:

  1. Authority and Mandates;

  2. Potential Conflicts; and

  3. Separation of Powers.

They examined the following models for guidance:

  1. Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (a training body within the Michigan State Police (MSP));

  2. The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission;

  3. The Legislative Corrective Ombudsman; and

  4. The State Appellate Defender’s Office.

From their review, they were able to provide three recommendations:

  1. The FSSB should be housed within the Executive Branch agency;

  2. The FSSB should not be housed within the MSP (because of the perception that they will lack any independence); and

  3. They should use similar language to the MIDC Act setting out the body’s independence:

MCL 780.985(2): The MIDC is an autonomous entity within the department. Except as otherwise provided by law, the MIDC shall exercise its statutory powers, duties, functions, and responsibilities independently of the department. The department shall provide support and coordinated services as requested by the MIDC including providing personnel, budgeting, procurement, and other administrative support to the MIDC sufficient to carry out its duties, powers, and responsibilities.

The FSSB has also been working on recommendations for who the actual members of the FSSB should be. Their consensus was that it needed to be science heavy and not full of lawyers and judges (who may be too agenda focused instead of focused on the advancement of science). The list they came up with included the following (with staggered four-year terms):

  1. Four Forensic Science Practitioners

  2. One Forensic Medical Examiner

  3. Two Academics (at least one with DNA expertise)

  4. One Retired Judge

  5. One Prosecutor

  6. One Defense Attorney or Public Defender

  7. One Member of the Public

The FSSB also gave an overview of its principles and goals:

  1. Accreditation of Laboratories – Any laboratory that handles forensic analysis must be accredited within 2 years after the statute becomes effective and they will verify these accreditations have been obtained. Any lab that cannot meet the timeframe must petition the TFFS for an extension.

  2. Registration of All Non-Lab Members – The FSSB will be responsible for registering forensic experts and confirming they meet all forensic-specific requirements. A public database will be maintained that includes an expert’s registration status, any cases where they have testified, and any misconduct determined by the FSSB.

  3. Complaints, Reports, and Investigations – The FSSB will design a system of reporting for any negligence, misconduct, or non-conformance. Reports and complaints may be made by:

  4. Any member of the TFFS

  5. Employee Whistleblowers

  6. The Media

  7. Any stakeholder in the criminal legal system, including any person who has been prosecuted.

  8. Notification – the FSSB will develop and implement a notification procedure for any investigation conducted. Notifications will go to all criminal legal system stakeholders and any persons convicted in the criminal case where the misconduct/negligence occurred along with their personal attorney.

  9. Education and Information- the FSSB is responsible for providing information in the developments of forensic science, providing information on education and training options, and collecting information regarding laws, rules, policies, and practices on forensic science.

  10. Recommendations for Appropriations, Resources, Best Practices, and Authority to Designing a System of Grants – the FSSB will assess system capabilities and needs and work to reduce backlogs and respond to any developing issues that arise while striving for and encouraging best practices.