The American Criminal Justice System: “Houston, We have a Problem.”
Mind you, this absolute immunity protection ONLY applies to government witnesses. It‘s the same type of logic as preventing poisoned customers from suing a chef because this would stifle the chef’s creativity in the kitchen. How many chefs would poison patrons? An illegal and unlikely scenario as restaurants would shut down and there would be health code compliance complaints. These safeguards do not play out in the criminal justice system. Quite the opposite: convictions win elections, including in the appellate arena, and look great in the media while those successful earn job promotions.
As for a forensic regulatory body, NONE with any regulatory powers over the criminal justice system exist, although the first National Commission on Forensic Science has just been created. What is currently in place is a scandal ridden “pay as you go” certifying agency environment where groups like the American Crime Lab Directors (under major fire and litigation) can issue board certifications and certificates for a fee despite not adhering to scientific peer review recommendations; e.g. blind audits, true proficiency tests.
As incredulous as these sordid tales are, the aftermath is even uglier. They will continue to happen unless decisive measures are taken. It took drug testing in the major league sports to prevent cheating. The “honor” system was just not working, ask Alex Rodriguez. The Tour de France can reclaim the seven Tour de France medals Lance Armstrong won while taking performance enhancement drugs, but a lying “expert witness” cannot restore the years lost to prison of someone framed by an uncaring and negligent justice system that turns a blind eye. Bo Bennett said it best, “For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” That reason should be the fear of repercussions. If a person can have their probation revoked for something as simple as missing a report period or failing to take required classes, we should require our government “experts” to prove their worth and work. It’s one thing for a charlatan preacher or carnival barker to line their pockets disingenuously, a whole other to allow unqualified and unethical government “experts” to play God with people’s lives based on shams.
Here is a simple and common sense roadmap that doesn’t take a college genius to figure out. We must start off with safeguarding the integrity of our country’s most precious institution, the justice system. First, we must separate police work and its prosecution from toxicology. The only bodies that scientists should be reporting to are other scientific bodies (legitimate, of the academic and scientific peer review variety). Currently much police miscegenation occurs, right down to the divvying and mixing up of funds and paychecks. Forensic results should be reported to the government, not controlled by the police or prosecution (as the Virginia LeFever murder conviction demonstrates where the prosecutor told James Ferguson what they were looking for despite the coroner’s findings). Second, although ethics is the new corporate “it” word, it seems to be staggering behind in the world of the police state. We must make it an essential minimum and reality in the HR of government personnel hiring. Proper screening of candidates and reference checking should be mandatory and commonplace. Our government experts should not only demonstrate the highest academic credentials, but they must also possess character beyond reproach; for their opinions don’t favor the highest bidder of a government contract or the buying power of widgets, but directly affects the value and experience of human life, a far more precious commodity and one that our Constitution was designed to protect. The type of character of one to whom so much power is given must be circumscribed with honesty, meticulousness, and trustworthiness. Third, we must not “trust” that local governments can ferret out frauds. There needs to be uniform national and consistent standards, protocols, and mandatory continued professional education akin to what lawyers, accountants, doctors, nurses, architects and engineers are required to take to take to keep up with developments in the field. All experts should be subjected to national certifications testing their proficiency before they can practice, akin to passing the FBI forensics courses to prove they possess the minimal aptitude and skills with which to handle and report laboratory evidence before doing so. Hopefully, the time has come where enough shame and disgust can propel us forward to reclaim what in theory should be the world’s best justice system, but is currently a far cry.