In a series of posts, I am going to introduce the reader to the existence of ISO 17025 and its importance. I am going to introduce it in bite-sized bits for easy digestion. Just like all matters of learning, knowledge is incremental over time and builds upon previous exposure.
In our first post we answered the question: What is ISO 17025?
The next post we answered the question: Why do we need standards? Why ISO 17025 and policy, procedures and instructions matter.
Then we answered the question: Why is ISO 17025 so important to us in forensic science?
Now today: Why should the criminal defense community care about ISO 17025?
Why should we care?
Criminal defense attorneys have an extremely difficult job in that we are expected to be masters of the law and nowadays are required to be masters of the science. It is as if we are the fish stuck in the fishbowl that is the law, while the outside world is science. We are very comfortable with our perspective within our fishbowl, i.e. the law, but once we are in the broader world of the scientific arena (or perhaps better stated as “alleged scientific arena”), we have a tendency to flop around on the ground like that helpless fish out of water. This does not need to be so[i]. ISO 17025 provides a means for the criminal defense attorney to conduct his or her essential due diligence which is to act as the Government’s only legitimate source of external validation and auditing when it comes to forensic results.
[i] In the long term, the only attorneys that may be negatively impacted are those who have an aversion to science. We suggest very strongly that if you are one of those folks, that unless you plan on being a volume driven pleader, you need to re-examine the type of law that you have chosen. Criminal defense, in general, is going to be increasingly focused on science and technology and requires understanding and the ability to clearly present its limitations. The authors know this to be true because we go to venues where the real science is presented, warts and all, such as the American Academy of Forensic Science annual meeting, various regional meetings as well as meetings sponsored by the American Chemical Society. We strongly urge NACDL and NCDD members to go to these scientific meetings.