DOJ Fails to Address Problems with Forensic Evidence

Written by Mark O'Mara on . Posted in Opinion

I read, with disgust, an article announcing that the only federal judge on a commission to improve forensic science in the criminal justice system had to resign in protest after criticizing the Department of Justice for causing the commission to be wholly ineffective. US District Judge Jed S. Rakoff could no longer tolerate DOJ's refusal to work towards a better exchange of information between prosecutors and defense attorneys, particularly regarding forensic experts.

Judge Rakoff said, "I believe it reflects the determination by the Department of Justice to place strategic advantage over a search for the truth." His words are both troubling and frightening. I liken this to prosecutors who protest or object to new trials when DNA evidence exonerates a convicted citizen. If we are to maintain trust in a criminal justice system -- a system already under attack for its deficiencies, we cannot allow artificial inadequacies to be injected intentionally.

Prosecutors are to seek justice, not just convictions. The awesome power we entrust to them has devastating consequences when abused. How can any prosecutor argue that less disclosure is better? Justice does not live in the shadows cast by hidden information, it only survives out in the open.

We look at the Department of Justice as being not only the best law enforcement agency in our country, but throughout the world. But that is an honor that DOJ must earn every day through honesty, integrity and transparency. Citizens, particularly citizens accused, deserve no less.