WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the National Symposium on Forensic Science today that “crimefighting is not a partisan endeavor,” and he’s seen that reflected in prosecutions throughout his career.
“President Trump considers it imperative for federal prosecutors to support state and local partners and help to reduce crime. Attorney General Jeff Sessions consistently emphasizes that most law enforcement officers work for state and local agencies, and we cannot fight crime effectively unless we are working together,” Rosenstein said.
“I worked closely with state and local prosecutors when I served as the U.S. Attorney for Maryland. One of the things that I found most remarkable was we tended to agree on most law enforcement issues, regardless of political affiliation,” he added.
The deputy attorney general noted that prosecutors “are not simply lawyers who work for the government.”
“From the perspective of many citizens, we are the government. People’s interactions with us create indelible memories and may forever influence the way they view both their government and the justice system,” he said. “…Keeping justice in the hearts and souls of the citizens is part of our job. That gives us a special responsibility to build public confidence by acting with integrity, professionalism, and candor. Our offices exercise significant power, and we must always endeavor to use that power wisely. It is our duty to enforce the laws and to follow the facts wherever they may lead. We need to ensure that our prosecutorial decisions are not influenced by politics or personal relationships.”
Rosenstein announced two new working groups at the Justice Department: the Council of Federal Forensic Laboratory Directors, which is the only federal interagency working group solely focused on forensic science and includes officials from DOJ and other executive branch agencies, and another working group consisting of state and local crime lab directors and forensic science researchers.
“In the near future, we expect to see the widespread use of rapid DNA testing in crime labs and police booking stations. The FBI and ATF crime labs already use software that computes the probability that various combinations of individuals are donors to complex DNA mixtures. The technology is also being used by many state and local crime labs,” he said. “More advanced DNA technologies are being developed and will soon be ready to resolve some of our most challenging forensic samples. One example is ‘next generation sequencing,’ which can distinguish the smallest component parts of mixed DNA molecules from multiple people.”
“Other technologies like 3-D imaging and the high resolution optical analysis of toolmarks, latent prints, and shoe mark features are now in advanced stages of research and development. Those tools will enhance the capacity and reliability of forensic pattern analysis in the near future.”
Rosenstein argued that while critics say forensic science should be excluded from state and federal courtrooms because “methods have not undergone the right type or amount of validation, or that they involve too much human interpretation and judgment to be accepted as ‘scientific’ methods,” that is “based on the false premise that a scientific method must be instrument-based, automated, and quantitative, excluding human interpretation and judgment.”
“Interpretation and judgment are essential aspects of what forensic scientists do, and it is important that they properly explain and describe their test results and testimonial conclusions,” he added.