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'Making a Murderer' lawyers start new forensic science nonprofit

Did you know that multiple studies have shown that faulty, unscientific or exaggerated forensic science is a major cause of wrongful convictions? According to the National Registry of Exonerations, improper or invalid forensic science has been discovered in approximately 24 percent of all exonerations since 1989.

Now, the lawyers behind the Netflix true crime series "Making a Murderer" have joined the University of Wisconsin law professor who co-founded the Wisconsin Innocence Project to start the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences (CIFS). The purpose of the nonprofit is to drive reform in the use of forensic science in criminal cases.

Attorneys Dean A. Strang and Jerome F. Buting and professor Keith A. Findley have forged a collaborative partnership with the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, bringing together an array of scientists in CIFS's executive team. CIFS's national advisory board includes legal academics, policy makers, leading scientists and forensic science experts.

CIFS will be the first nonprofit in the U.S. to focus exclusively on improving the reliability and safety of criminal prosecutions by strengthening forensic science. It will focus on a broad range of efforts toward that goal, including legislation, efforts in the judiciary, and the education of tomorrow's attorneys and scientists. CIFS's innovative approach will allow law students and undergraduate or graduate-level scientists to work collaboratively to expand their knowledge and competency in this area.

The center will also work as an enthusiastic partner with other organizations working to improve forensic science, such as the Innocence Project, its local partners, academic groups who are engaged in improving the work done by forensic laboratories and analysts, and other stakeholders in the legal system focused on increasing the reliability of forensic science in the American Legal System.

Inaugural Symposium Scheduled for Nov. 15 in St. Louis

CIFS's first educational symposium, "Where's the Science in Forensic Science?" will take place at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis on Nov. 15, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Scientists, legal academics and policy experts will discuss topics including the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States" and the 2016 President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), both of which had profound impact on the discussion about the state of forensic science in the U.S.

The day will include a keynote talk by Radley Balko, criminal justice columnist for the Washington Post and author of the recent book The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist (2018), describing the abuses of forensic science in Mississippi. Also presenting are Attorneys Buting and Strang and Attorney David Rudolf featured in the Netflix hit The Staircase. 

The symposium is free to students. Admission for non-students is $55 and includes lunch. In Missouri, attorneys may obtain 6.4 CLE credits. Registration is required. For more information, see the Events page of CIFS's website and then register for the symposium online.

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