When: Wednesday, August 24th, 2022 from 1:00pm - 3:00pm ET

This webinar will provide a comprehensive discussion of wrongful convictions related to toxicological analysis. The session will examine case studies related to alcohol and drug testing, as well as postmortem toxicological analyses. The webinar will emphasize practical guidance to prevent Class I deficiencies (such as false positives) and future wrongful convictions.

PRESENTER

Dr. John Morgan

John Morgan head shot

Dr. John Morgan is internationally recognized for his work in forensic science, body armor, special operations technology, and police technology. Dr. Morgan has served a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Congressional Science Fellow of the American Physical Society, and Senior Director of the Center for Forensic Sciences at RTI International. He also served in the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Defense as a senior executive managing programs that encompass scientific research, public safety, military technology, special operations, information systems, and standards, including as Deputy Director for Science and Technology at the National Institute of Justice and the Combatting Terrorism Technology Support Office, as well as Command Science Advisor for the US Army Special Operations Command. He received the 2007 Service to America Medal for his work to improve the nation’s capacity to conduct DNA analysis.



Course DESCRIPTION

Toxicologists benefit from rigorous professional and laboratory standards that are broadly accepted and enforced in public and private laboratories. Nonetheless, wrongful convictions have arisen from errors related to toxicological analysis. This webinar will provide a comprehensive review of these wrongful convictions, including root cause analysis and practical mitigation strategies.

While many errors relate to mistakes by an individual, wrongful convictions demonstrate that all errors relate to system and organizational deficiencies that are observable and can be ameliorated. Contributing factors may arise at any point from the crime scene to the courtroom, including evidence collection and tracking, laboratory analysis, quality assurance, communication of results, police investigation, and testimony. Thus, the most impactful responses will encompass systemic improvements in the entire process.

In a toxicology laboratory accreditation context, Class II and III deficiencies are commonly recognized and mitigated. A wrongful conviction will often be associated with a Class I deficiency, such as an erroneous identification, false identification, or false positive. Wrongful convictions provide an opportunity for toxicologists to observe Class I deficiencies and mitigate the risk of future errors through systemic reforms in the toxicology laboratory and among practitioners who rely on toxicological analyses. When unaddressed, Class II and III deficiencies may also contribute to a decline in trust among laboratory stakeholders and chronic gaps in practice that lead to wrongful convictions.

Specific case studies will encompass the full range of toxicological practice, including breath alcohol analysis, routine drug testing, and medical toxicology. Postmortem toxicology will be examined in detail, including cases involving poor sample handling, inadequate laboratory testing, misinterpretation, and misuse of toxicological analyses by investigators or officers of the court. Cases will be discussed within their historical context. The role of improvements in scientific standards and technology will be discussed, as well as the contribution of organizational factors, cognitive bias, and statistical frameworks.

The student will receive supporting materials related to the issues and cases reviewed in the webinar, including case documentation and analysis. The instructor will answer questions during and after the webinar to provide further details and perspective, as needed.

*The course content has been reviewed by the ABFT and ABC, and determined to be acceptable for submission to the ABFT or ABC for continuing education credit.

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