ProPublic Seeks FST Software

From the Fair Punishment Project newsletter today:

ProPublica Seeks Source Code for New York City’s Disputed DNA Software. From 2011 to this year, the New York City Medical Examiner analyzed DNA from 1,350 criminal cases with the use of software called Forensic Statistical Tool (FST). Though known as a pioneer in analyzing the most difficult evidence from crime scenes, the software has come under intense scrutiny. A defense expert in Kevin Johnson’s case found serious issues with it, leading U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York to issue the first ruling requiring the city to provide the software’s source code to the defense. The Medical Examiner’s office has long kept the source code a secret, denying public information requests and successfully opposing motions in previous cases. Judge Caproni’s ruling includes a protective order preventing public access to the information, but the public wants answers about this potential source of wrongful convictions. ProPublica filed a motion requesting Judge Caproni lift the protective order, and a coalition of defense attorneys sent a letter to New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott demanding an investigation. Politicians have also taken note: several New York City Council members have expressed concern, and State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol has proposed legislation mandating that membership in the New York State Commission on Forensic Science be restricted to scientists. Currently, the group—a subcommittee of which unanimously approved FST in 2010 even though it did not have access to FST’s source code in its evaluation process—also includes lawyers, law enforcement, and politicians. [Lauren Kirchner / ProPublica] See also In Justice Today first covered questions about FST in the September 11 newsletter.

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