Introduced by Senator Illuzzi of Essex-Orleans District
Subject: Public safety; forensic laboratory; oversight commission
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to create the forensic laboratory oversight commission to oversee and independently investigate the department of public safety’s forensic laboratory.
AN ACT RELATING TO THE CREATION OF THE FORENSIC LABORATORY OVERSIGHT COMMISSION
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 20 V.S.A. § 1947 is added to read:
§ 1947. FORENSIC LABORATORY OVERSIGHT COMMISSION
(a) There is created the forensic laboratory oversight commission. The commission shall comprise the following members:
(1) one member appointed by the governor;
(2) one member of the senate appointed by the committee on committees;
(3) one member of the house of representatives appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives;
(4) one member appointed by the attorney general, who has expertise in the field of forensic science;
(5) one member appointed by the board of trustees of the
University of Vermont who is a faculty member of the medical school and who specializes in clinical laboratory medicine;
(6) one member appointed by the president of Vermont Law School who is a faculty or staff member and who specializes in criminal justice;
(7) one member appointed by the executive director of
the department of state’s attorneys and sheriffs; and
(8) one member appointed by the defender general.
(b) Each member of the commission shall serve for a two-year term.
The governor shall designate a member to serve as chair of the commission.
(c) The commission shall:
(1) develop and implement:
(A) an accreditation process for all laboratories, facilities, or entities that conduct forensic analyses; and
(B) a reporting system through which accredited laboratories, facilities, or entities report professional negligence or misconduct;
(2) require all laboratories, facilities, or entities that conduct forensic analyses to:
(A) become accredited by the commission; and
(B) report professional negligence or misconduct to the commission; and
(3) investigate, in a timely manner, any allegation of professional negligence or misconduct that would substantially affect the integrity of the results of a forensic analysis conducted by an accredited laboratory, facility, or entity.
(d) An investigation under subdivision (c)(3) of this section:
(1) shall include the preparation of a written report that identifies and describes the methods and procedures used to identify:
(A) the alleged negligence or misconduct;
(B) whether negligence or misconduct occurred;
(C) any corrective action required of the laboratory, facility, or entity; and
(2) may include one or more:
(A) retrospective reexaminations of other forensic analyses conducted by the laboratory, facility, or entity that may involve the same kind of negligence or misconduct; and
(B) follow-up evaluations of the laboratory, facility, or entity to review:
(i) the implementation of any corrective action required under subdivision (1)(C) of this subsection; or
(ii) the conclusion of any retrospective reexamination under subdivision (2)(A) of this subsection.
(e) The commission by contract may delegate the duties described by subdivisions (c)(1) and (3) of this section to any person the commission determines to be qualified to assume those duties.
(f) As part of the accreditation process developed and implemented under subdivision (c)(1) of this section, the commission may:
(1) establish minimum accreditation standards and mandatory training requirements for individuals employed by a laboratory, facility, or entity that
conducts forensic analyses;
(2) validate or approve specific forensic methods or methodologies; and
(3) establish procedures, policies, and practices to improve the quality of forensic analyses conducted in this state.
(g) The commission may require that a laboratory, facility, or entity required to be accredited under this section pay any costs incurred to ensure compliance with this section.
(h) The commission shall make all accreditation reviews conducted under subdivision (c)(2) of this section and investigation reports completed under subdivision (d)(1) available to the public. A report completed under subdivision (d)(1), in a subsequent civil or criminal proceeding, shall not be prima facie evidence of the information or findings contained in the report.
(i) A member of the commission is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses at the rate per mile determined by the federal Office of Governmentwide Policy and published in the Federal Register.
(j) The commission shall submit any report received under subdivision (c)(2) of this section and any report prepared under subdivision (d)(1) to the governor, clerk of the house of representatives, and secretary of the senate not later than December 1 of each even-numbered year.
(k) In this section, "forensic analysis" means a medical, chemical, toxicologic, ballistic, or other expert examination or test performed on physical evidence, including DNA evidence, for the purpose of determining the connection of the evidence to a criminal action.
The Vermont General Assembly
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