Widener Law Professor Jules Epstein has been appointed to the newly created National Commission on Forensic Science.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology announced the commission Jan. 10. Epstein was one of 30 commissioners selected from a pool of more than 300. The group includes federal, state and local forensic science providers, research scientists, academics, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges from around the United States.
It will work to improve the practice of forensic science by providing guidance on intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system. The commission is also expected to develop policy recommendations for the U.S. attorney general, including uniform codes for professional responsibility, and training and certification requirements.
“Service as a commissioner comes at a terrifically important time in American criminal justice, as forensic evidence plays a greater and greater part in investigations and trials, and the consumers – judges, lawyers and the public – need to know the strengths and limitations of each discipline,” Epstein said. “Service will also permit me to bring a wealth of knowledge and resources back to the Widener classroom and community.”
Epstein joined the Widener Law Delaware-campus faculty in 2003 and teaches criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence courses. He serves as director of the school’s Taishoff Advocacy, Technology and Public Service Institute.
A 1978 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Epstein began his legal career with the Defender Association of Philadelphia. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 1988 through 2006. He has authored dozens of articles and book chapters and lectured around the country, with his work concentrating in recent years on capital cases, eyewitness and forensic issues. He was the first member of the university faculty based on Widener’s Delaware campus to receive the prestigious Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2011.
In the area of forensics, Epstein has worked on two DNA workgroups and in capital case trainings for the National Institute of Justice, and on a working group on latent print issues for the National Institute for Standards and Technology. He is co-editor of “The Scientific Evidence Review” and of “The Future of Evidence,” both published by the American Bar Association, and he served as section editor for the “Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences,” second edition.
Epstein has taught death penalty law nationally to judges and attorneys and continues to handle capital cases pro bono at the appellate and post-conviction stages. He serves as faculty for the National Judicial College, where he teaches judges courses in advanced evidence and capital case law.
The newly created National Commission on Forensic Science will be co-chaired by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick D. Gallagher. Nelson Santos, deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Forensic Sciences at the Drug Enforcement Administration, and John M. Butler, special assistant to the NIST director for forensic science, will serve as vice-chairs.
The group will gather for its first meeting next month in Washington.