Wednesday, February 19, 2020

UIS Illinois Innocence Project executive director John J. Hanlon named to the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science

Gov. JB Pritzker has named John J. Hanlon, executive director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project, as one of 15 members to the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science, created in August 2019 through Executive Order 19-13.

“I am extremely honored to accept the Governor’s appointment to the Task Force on Forensic Science,” said Hanlon. “Proper understandings and applications of forensic evidence are absolutely crucial toward a more fair and reliable criminal justice system.”

The group is tasked with analyzing the operations and oversight of critical Illinois State Police laboratories, ensuring they use the latest forensic technologies to solve crimes and protect the public, and make recommendations to the legislature and other stakeholders as forensic science continues to evolve.

“With over 70,000 forensic assignments each year, the Illinois State Police operates one of the largest lab systems in the nation, and this task force will ensure it operates at its best and truly delivers justice,” said Gov. Pritzker. “The experienced leaders serving on this task force will take a systematic and proactive approach to further reducing backlogs and support public safety and first responders.”

The Illinois Innocence Project praised Gov. Pritzker for placing Illinois among just a handful of states taking the initiative to look at forensic science policy and practices.

“This task force is a critical first step toward increased understandings and fairness pertaining to forensic sciences processes and applications in our criminal justice system. Hopefully, the development and implementation of best practices will serve to provide justice for the guilty and at the same time reduce and even prevent the wrongful conviction of innocent people in Illinois,” said Hanlon.

The University of Illinois Springfield, which serves as the home office of the Illinois Innocence Project, is one of just two higher education institutions represented on the Task Force.  

“John Hanlon’s input on this task force will help to bolster the important work already being done by the Illinois Innocence Project,” said UIS Chancellor Susan Koch. “The Project is an important part of UIS’ commitment to providing students with real-world experiences and to serving the public good.”

This new task force follows national calls for the establishment of scientific standards for forensic evidence. A 2009 National Academy of Science report, now considered groundbreaking, concluded that numerous forensic disciplines lacked scientific validation and acceptable standards. The report called for strengthened oversight, research and support to ensure an increased reliability of testing, analysis and conclusions.

The 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report concluded two important gaps that warranted attention: 1) the need for clarity about scientific standards for validity and reliability of forensic methods; and 2) the need to evaluate specific forensic methods to determine whether they have been scientifically established to be valid and reliable (i.e. bitemark comparison, hair microscopy, blood spatter analysis, ballistics).

Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan Kelly will chair the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science.

Other members include:
  • Megan Alderden – director of criminology, DePaul University; former executive director, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority
  • Dr. Ponni Arunkumar – chief medical examiner, Cook County
  • Amy Campanelli – Cook County public defender
  • Major Jeff Connor – Madison County chief deputy sheriff
  • Brendan Deenihan – deputy chief of detectives, Chicago Police Department
  • Claire Dragovich – executive director, DuPage County Crime Lab
  • Phil Kinsey – executive director, Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Lab
  • Judge Heidi Ladd – circuit judge, 6th Judicial Circuit (Champaign)
  • Holly Lemons – Montgomery County circuit clerk, president of the Illinois Association of Court Clerks
  • Cathy MacElroy – St. Clair County public defender
  • Sarah Toney – managing partner, Toney Law Firm, LLC
  • Carrie Ward – executive director, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Amy Watroba – assistant state’s attorney, DuPage County
  • Robin Woolery – ISP assistant deputy director, Division of Forensic Services
The Illinois Innocence Project, founded in 2001 at the University of Illinois Springfield, provides pro bono legal advocacy and guidance to those who have been wrongfully convicted in Illinois but have credible claims of actual innocence; educates students and the public about criminal justice system failures that lead to wrongful convictions; and works with policymakers and law enforcement to change rules, laws and practices to minimize wrongful convictions.

No comments: