WASHINGTON (AP) _ Researchers have concluded U.S. crime laboratories need an overhaul because they lack strict and consistent scientific standards.
A 255-page report from the National Academy of Sciences is urging the creation of national standards of training, certification and expertise for forensic criminal work, much of which is currently done on a city or state level.
The authors of the report say the lack of consistent standards raises the possibility that the quality of forensic evidence presented in court can vary unpredictably.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday he had not reviewed the report, but said the government should devote "more attention, more time, more resources, to that issue.''
"We have the potential to resolve a lot of crimes -- to find people who are guilty, to absolve people who are not, through the use of these great forensic techniques,'' Holder said.
The report comes at a time when public perceptions of forensic evidence are being pulled in opposite directions.
The now-regular use of new DNA evidence overturning past convictions has led to renewed doubts about the accuracy of other forensic methods. In the meantime, popular television shows suggest such evidence contains little or no room for doubt.
The federal government, the report concluded, should step in and assert uniform principles to the scientific evidence and testimony that often play a critical role in courtrooms.