BEND, OR -- The Deschutes County District Attorney is frustrated over a recent decision by the U.S. Attorney General to dissolve the National Commission on Forensic Science. The bipartisan, independent commission was made up of judges, attorneys and scientists appointed by President Obama to advise on the use of science in criminal cases. They were scheduled to release a report on their progress, later this month.
D.A. John Hummel tells KBND News, "As a District Attorney, if you’re doing it right, you know your job is not to obtain convictions. Your job is to find the truth and seek justice. Sometimes science sets people free and sometimes it locks them up. And, we rely on that science to be accurate. The US Attorney seems to be less enthused about that principle than me but I want people to know that we’re going to continue to seek the truth in Deschutes County."
Hummel says this is the first time he’s spoken out against federal policy. "This commission was going to give guidance to law enforcement, to judges, to defense attorneys all across the country. So that decision impacts the prosecution of every case in the country. When a decision like this is made that impacts me, and impacts the residents of Deschutes County, I think it is appropriate that I state my opinion." He says his criticism isn’t against President Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, "I respect the President and the Attorney General, but this is about the policy. I think this policy decision is wrong; it’s disheartening." He adds, "I was looking forward to the report that that Commission on Science was going to release soon, that would have given judges and attorneys guidance on what is good science and what is science that shouldn’t be relied upon. But, now that Commission is no more."
Attorney General Sessions say the Justice Department will instead appoint an in-house advisor and create an internal committee to study improvements to forensic analysis.