Welcome to Justice Talks

Justice Talks

It is with great pleasure and hope that I introduce a change to the 2024 Annual Meeting Program and a new series for the Academy Newsfeed. Case Breaks became a part of the program in 2021 to increase the scientific content at the annual conferences. The Case Breaks provided an opportunity for presenters to have a slightly longer session for the discussion of cases or other relevant scientific topics in an informal setting. The Case Breaks have been well received, which indicates a desire for the extra content.

To help promote the theme for the 2024 Annual Scientific Conference, the Case Breaks will be called Justice Talks. The format will remain the same, but the focus will be on the efforts of the presenters or those in the forensic science community to promote justice through forensic science. Virginia Barron will serve as the Justice Talks Chair and Stephanie Domitrovich will assist as the Co-Chair. Both have been tasked with identifying and soliciting presentations to promote the theme.

To help keep the focus on the theme for 2024 year-round, Justice Talks have also been added as a series for the Academy Newsfeed. The Justice Talks will feature submissions from AAFS Members/Sections and partners in the forensic science community to highlight the efforts of those within the field to promote justice through forensic science. The series will also be used to share thought-provoking information with an emphasis on justice.

I am also very pleased to announce that JusticeTrax has partnered with us to sponsor the Justice Talks. JusticeTrax has been a longtime supporter of the AAFS, and their support of this endeavor is a testament to their commitment to our organization and the field of forensic science. Thank you to JusticeTrax for the continued partnership!

As we start this new series in the Academy Newsfeed, I would like to share a recent article from NPR in which two of our very own Academy members served as the principal investigators. In the February NPR article titled "New research could help nurses, police detect bruises on people with dark skin," Katherine Scafide and Nancy Downing, both members of the Forensic Nursing Science Section, discussed the difficulty in detecting injuries on survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence who have black or brown skin. The work was praised by the Justice Department as a model of inclusive research. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Director Nancy La Vigne provided additional comments for our series:

"This study raises important questions about the degree to which forensic methodologies were developed by and for white people, resulting in unequal justice system outcomes for people with darker skin tones. When a woman with dark skin pigmentation reports her experience as an assault victim and traditional methodologies do not afford medical forensic examiners with the ability to detect and document the nature of her injuries, investigations are compromised, and cases are less likely to be prosecuted.

The study itself is a prime example of the value of interdisciplinary research — in this case drawing from both the forensic and social sciences. Employing a randomized controlled trial design enabled researchers to discern statistically significant differences in outcomes with no threats to internal validity. Importantly, the creative study design enabled documentation of the impact of employing different colored lights and goggles, varying their use on women of different skin tones and tracking detection accuracy over time as bruising changed in color and size. It is also notable that the study team included people with first-hand experience as forensic nurse examiners who understood that bruises manifest differently on different skin pigmentations and over time.

Finally, these research findings make a strong case that medical forensic examinations and documentation should be approached through a racial equity lens, using the correct methodology for each individual. It is essential that the study's findings along with the tools needed to employ pigmentation-specific examination methods are disseminated throughout the country to ensure that justice is served for all victims and not just those with light skin tones." — Nancy La Vigne, PhD.

Click here to read the full NPR article.

Welcome to Justice Talks!


The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.