RTI International is offering their 2nd Annual Online Symposium: Current Trends in Forensics & Forensic Toxicology program May 13-17, 2019. The program is free of charge.
The program will feature speakers on various topics of toxicology and seized drug analysis. The program is intended for laboratory scientists who work in these fields so that they can receive additional training without having to leave the lab, but is available to the forensic community as a whole.
If you are interested in learning more about the latest trends in these fields, visit the program site for more information and registration.
June 2 – 7, 2019: New York City, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
The National Forensic College is an advanced, week-long forensic science CLE designed for experienced trial and post-conviction defense litigators. It features the foremost national experts in a wide range of forensic disciplines and presents a truly one-of-a kind opportunity. The Forensic College prepares attorneys to litigate complex forensic science issues strategically and with the support of the nation’s leading law firms and experts. One core objective of the Forensic College is to train trainers and supervisors in the defense community, and the participants include training directors from federal defender offices, public defense organizations, and assigned counsel programs.
The Forensic College has reserved a limited number of slots for private attorneys. Attendance is by application and the limited space fills quickly, so early submissions are encouraged. The Forensic College is especially eager to recruit private lawyers who may be involved in planning or implementing defense or wrongful conviction training programs in their communities, or those at law firms who may wish to participate in cutting-edge forensic litigation. Private attorney tuition is $1,199 for the full six-day program. Understanding it may be difficult for some lawyers to attend the entire week, you may request enrollment for part of the week by contacting Vanessa Antoun, NACDL Senior Resource Counsel, at email@example.com or (202) 465-7663. To learn more, please visit the homepage: www.nacdl.org/NFC2019.
To apply, download the attorney application at www.nacdl.org/NFCApp and return to Vanessa Antoun, NACDL Senior Resource Counsel, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Forensic College is presented in collaboration with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Defender Services Training Division.
- Framework for Evaluating Forensic Science Evidence
- DNA – basic & advanced tracks
- Pattern Evidence – including Fingerprints & Firearms
- Shaken Baby Syndrome / Abusive Head Trauma
- Medical Evidence: Sexual & Physical Abuse
- Eyewitness Identification
- Crime Scene Evidence
- Digital Evidence
Attorneys may find it useful to review police procedure manuals to understand the applicable rules of conduct for the relevant law enforcement entity in their case. These rules are referred to as “policies and procedures,” “general orders,” “general directives,” “codes of conduct,” or “manuals.” Many police departments across the state have their manuals available for public viewing online, though the manuals for the various county sheriffs’ offices seem to be less commonly available.
In many cases, police departments and sheriffs’ offices choose to pursue accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which requires compliance with certain standards and annual review. General information on the accreditation process and standards can be found here. It is likely that a CALEA-accredited department would have written standards.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of the law enforcement entities in the most highly-populated areas of the state, with links to online manuals if they are available. Even if the manuals have not been made available online, many law enforcement entities have made reference to such manuals in documents that are publicly available, so attorneys could request them through discovery or through a public records request.
- Buncombe – Unavailable.
- Cabarrus – Unavailable, though adhering to the “Sheriff’s Procedures and Policies” is listed as a goal in an office document (page 239).
- Cumberland – Doesn’t list manual, but is CALEA accredited.
- Forsyth – Doesn’t list manual, but is CALEA accredited.
- Guilford – Unavailable.
- Iredell – no manual available for the sheriff’s office, but the Forensic Services Guide is available here.
- Johnston – Unavailable, but code of ethics available online.
- Mecklenburg – Unavailable.
- New Hanover – Unavailable.
- Onslow – Unavailable.
- Scotland – Unavailable.
- Union – Unavailable.
- Wake – Unavailable, though a portion of an old version is available here
In 2018, the NC General Assembly passed legislation (S.L. 2018-70) requiring the creation of the a statewide tracking system to track the testing of Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECKs) from collection to completion of forensic testing. The tracking system is now available for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
For kits collected on or after Oct. 1, 2018, the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Tracking and Information Management System (STIMS), can be accessed to know where the kit is, in whose custody, whether the kit has reached the lab, and whether or not it has been tested—useful information for all participants in the investigation and court proceedings.
The system is easy to use: just visit the STIMS online portal, enter the serial number of the kit you wish to check in the system, and the tracking information will be returned in moments. The serial number of the kit is found on the box itself. The number may contain several leading zeroes—these may be included or omitted. Defense counsel will need to request the serial number of the kit from law enforcement or the District Attorney’s Office. Attorneys should be aware that the online system does not report the results of the testing, only the tracking information. Results of laboratory analysis are available through the discovery process.
The NC Attorney General’s Office has put together a series of instructional videos on the STIMS systems for various users:
Overview: A general overview of STIMS, why it was created, as well as applicable law and legislative history.
Survivor User: Covers how to enter the serial numbers and how to read the results page.
These videos may be useful to know how the data is entered and how the kits are tracked through the chain of custody:
Law Enforcement User Training Video
Crime Laboratory User Training Video
Do you know how to access the lab procedures for the NC State Crime Laboratory? It is important for attorneys to review these procedures so that they understand how the laboratory evidence in their case was analyzed.
The method for accessing lab procedures changed in 2018. Previously, there were links to the current lab procedures on the State Crime Lab’s ISO Procedures webpage. Now, the Lab has placed the documents on a SharePoint site to provide access to both current and historical/archived procedures.
To access the procedures, an attorney should follow these steps (which are also described on the Lab’s website):
- Email the Lab (click and an email will open in a new window).
- The Lab will reply to your email, sending you a link to access to the policies and procedures via the SharePoint site.
- Access to the SharePoint site requires an active Microsoft account. If you do not have one, you may create one for free during the login process.
- If you have previously been granted access, you may use this link to access the site: Crime Laboratory Policies and Procedures.
In my experience, the Lab responds quickly to these requests during business hours, but depending on one’s familiarity with using a SharePoint site, it may take a little longer to learn to navigate this system. Also, because a request and a reply is needed, attorneys should request this access now, before they have a pressing need for immediate access.
As with any change, there is a learning curve, but this change is an improvement for the defense bar because it allows access to archived procedures. The Lab regularly updates its procedures, so it is important to understand both the procedure in effect at the time the evidence was tested, and the current procedure, if there has been a change.
The IDS Forensic website has posted the toxicology lab procedures from the NC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner here. Attorneys who would like to learn more about the procedures that the OCME toxicology lab uses to test evidence can read through the procedures.
For casework, attorneys should obtain the lab procedures that were in effect at the time that the evidence in their case was worked. Those procedures can be requested through discovery. The information posted on the IDS Forensic website should be used for general information purposes only and to give attorneys an idea of what procedures are available.
If you’d like to learn more about scientific terminology, Duke Law student Logan Johnson interviewed toxicologist Dr. Jay Gehlhausen about terminology that attorneys might encounter when reviewing scientific evidence. Have you ever wondered what the difference is between reproducibility and repeatability? What is the difference between accuracy and precision? What are blanks and controls?
Please take a look at the short video below to learn more about scientific research and methodology for ensuring the accuracy of results.
Scientific Terminology from Sarah Olson on Vimeo.