Legal Aid Society


5th Annual Questioning Forensics Conference

On January 14th and 15th the DNA Unit presented its 5th annual Questioning Forensics conference.  Our conference, which brought together more than 200 attorneys, investigators, and scientists from across the country, tackled issues critical to our clients, including genetic privacy, challenging DNA testing in court, and understanding how new discovery laws impact our forensic practice.

This conference came at a critical time in New York City.  In New York​, DNA collection can only be done on warrant, court order or valid consent, and can only be indexed from people who’ve been convicted of designated offenses. Despite that, our police force has taken a concerted and coordinated effort to avoid the warrant requirement, to avoid the no arrestee legislation, and to avoid the non indexing rules for people who are not convicted of crimes, by taking surreptitious  DNA from people in custody, including our children, and sending that DNA to an unregulated rogue index.

The speakers at QF, among the most renowned in their fields, addressed these important privacy concerns.   Keynote speaker, Dr. Alondra Nelson, is the president of the Social Science Research Council,  the Harold F. Linder Chair in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome.   Her talk tackled the nexus between forensic DNA and racial justice.

We also presented the 5th annual Magnus Mukoro Award, in honor of our late, beloved colleague who exemplified integrity, compassion and fairness, to Dr. John Butler.  Dr. Butler is widely known as the godfather of forensic DNA and is a fellow and special assistant to the Director of Forensic Science at the National Institute of Science and technology.

Other speakers include Professor Erin Murphy,  author of Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA; Dr. Hari Iyer and Dr. Steven Lund, statisticians with NIST and authors of leading publications on likelihood ratios; and Dr. Dan Krane, a nationally recognized forensic DNA expert.

Terri Rosenblatt, Supervising Attorney of the DNA Unit, lead a panel discussion covering the hot button issue of genetic privacy and surveillance in New York City.  Anthony Posada (The Community Justice Unit)  and Shomari Ward, (Juvenile Rights Practice’s Special Litigation Unit), sat alongside Professor Murphy to discuss how the issues surrounding genetic privacy affect our clients.

Attorneys from the DNA Unit, Homicide Defense Task Force, and Training Unit and Juvenile Rights project also presented on trial practice and New York’s new discovery laws.

This year’s conference was our largest yet, and we’re already looking forward to QF 2021!