Monthly Archives: June 2012

DNA for the Defense Bar

A fantastic new publication is available for criminal defense attorneys working on cases with DNA evidence. DNA for the Defense Bar was published by the National Institute of Justice in June 2012 and is available for free download here. Normally I don’t recommend printing out publications because I love trees, but this is one resource that you’ll want to print out and keep on hand when you’re working on cases with DNA evidence.

This manual was written by a group of experienced defense attorneys and DNA experts including Jack Ballantyne, Catherine Cothran, Jules Epstein, Christine Funk, Chris Plourd, Vanessa Potkin, Ron Reinstein, and Edward Ungvarsky.  Its approach to basic and advanced topics is easy to understand. The manual contains excellent examples and figures so that attorneys can visualize the concepts discussed and compare the figures in the manual to lab reports in their own cases.There are clear explanations of topics such as artifacts, interpretation of results, cold case hits and CODIS, DNA collection issues, laboratory issues, newer techniques such as mtDNA and Y-STR, and statistics. There is a glossary that attorneys can use to understand the concepts in this publication and the language used in lab reports.

In addition to explaining the science and techniques of DNA analysis, the manual offers advice on topics such as opening and closing statements, jury selection, and cross examination. This is a great reference for any attorney working on cases with DNA evidence.

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Digital Forensics for Attorneys

The UNC School of Government has posted a new on-demand virtual CLE entitled, Digital Forensics for Attorneys. Digital forensics expert Larry Daniel teaches this one-hour course which attorneys can view for free or purchase for $50 if CLE credit is needed. Daniel’s program provides an overview of digital forensic concepts, case examples, and relevant terminology. Attorneys will learn the basic information needed to understand the process of computer and cell phone forensics; the primary areas of focus in digital forensics; and the proper methods for search and seizure of electronic evidence.

Daniel discusses document metadata and the capabilities of computer forensic recovery of email, internet history, documents, and pictures. He also provides answers to common questions, such as: What is a forensic copy of a hard drive? What kind of information can be recovered?  How do I know if the evidence was properly obtained and preserved? What is a computer forensics expert and what should an attorney expect from such an expert?

This program is a great way for attorneys to learn more about the type of analysis performed on digital devices and is an excellent refresher for anyone confronting digital forensic evidence in a case.

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New Forms for Requesting Expert Funding

New versions of the forms you must use to request expert funding in non-capital criminal and non-criminal North Carolina cases at the trial level are now available on the AOC website. The revised versions of both forms are dated 6/12. The changes to the forms are minor, but one change that attorneys should be aware of is that the form gives the Court the option to allow the motion and order to be sealed and retained in counsel’s file while the case is pending and be filed in the court file within 30 days of final disposition at the trial level.

  • AOC-G-309 (“Application and Order for Defense Expert Witness Funding in Non-Capital Criminal and Non-Criminal Cases at the Trial Level”):  This form must be used to request expert funding in any non-capital criminal or non-criminal case at the trial level and must be accompanied by a supporting motion.  The form contains the approved expert hourly rate schedule.
  • AOC-G-310 (“Defense Petition For Expert Hourly Rate Deviation in Non-Capital Criminal and Non-Criminal Cases at the Trial Level and IDS Approval or Denial”):  This form must be used to ask the IDS Director to grant a deviation from the applicable standard expert rate in extraordinary circumstances.

These forms can be used now and should be used for all court orders or deviation requests dated July 1, 2012 or later.

There are also new forms for the appointment of experts in capital cases that are available through the IDS website:

Attorneys who have questions about the mechanics of getting an expert can refer to the Experts page of the IDS Forensics website for information about experts, sample motions, and forms and policies.

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