How the Texas Forensic Science Commission Came To Be

The Texas Monthly wrote this month on the inception of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and how the organization went from a political body, divided and powerless, to an agency that has turned Texas, a law-and-order state, into a leading jurisdiction fixing the criminal justice system.

The Forensic Science Commission (FSC) was established in 2005 and largely reviews complaints submitted by attorneys and inmates of misconduct of accredited labs. A brief period between 2009 and 2011 led the FSC to be a laughing stock, as members went as far as to argue guilt or innocence for various inmates who had written to the FSC; now, the FSC acknowledges that it is not a guilt-finding organization, but one that opines on the use of procedures, the use of language by expert witnesses, and more generally, the non-scientific process of interpreting the results of tests, most recently in cases involving DNA.

The FSC has led to agencies, previously diametrically opposed, to work together to revisit closed cases and train state officials. These partnerships are especially important since the FSC does not alone have the ability to reopen closed cases. In the last decade, the FSC’s jurisdiction has been expanded to cover accredited and non-accredited labs. Likewise, the FSC’s budget has been doubled to $500,000.

The FSC has recently come into the national spotlight after denouncing the use of bite-mark testimony. The FSC has made similar waves by looking into hair-comparison analysis, and with the FBI, found that hair-comparison analyses were either overstated or not fully explained in 90% of cases.

Read on about the inner-workings of the FSC and the individuals behind it, here, in the Texas Monthly.

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