Forensic Sciences Practice Group
The 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” concluded, “[L]awyers and judges often have insufficient training and background in scientific methodology, and they often fail to fully comprehend the approaches employed by different forensic science disciplines and the reliability of forensic science evidence that is offered in trial. Such training is essential, because any checklist for the admissibility of scientific or technical testimony is imperfect. Conformance with items on a checklist can suggest that testimony is reliable, but it does not guarantee it. Better connections must be established and promoted between experts in the forensic science disciplines and law schools, legal scholars, and practitioners. The fruits of any advances in the forensic science disciplines should be transferred directly to legal scholars and practitioners (including civil litigators, prosecutors, and criminal defense counsel), federal, state, and local legislators, members of the judiciary, and law enforcement officials, so that appropriate adjustments can be made in criminal and civil laws and procedures, model jury instructions, law enforcement practices, litigation strategies, and judicial decision making.”
Anthony Rios and Vincent Rust, the Forensic Sciences Practice Group coordinators in our agency are seeking to correct the deficits the NAS report identifies by promoting effective, creative advocacy in cases involving forensic science. Their work involves: 1) networking with lawyers and scientists throughout the country to learn of the available forensic resources and making that information available, 2) training staff, and 3) consulting on cases throughout the state.
To that end, the forensic practice coordinators, since their appointment in April 2012, have accomplished the following:
- Met with top scientists and lawyers in the U.S. and Canada about creating an innovative forensic practice website that allows for an accessible and practical way to share resources and provide general guidance to staff attorneys and private bar attorneys who take Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office (SPD) appointments.
- Developed training curriculum and materials to assist staff attorneys and the private bar with forensic issues.
- Met with organizations, such as the Wisconsin Innocence Project, to find ways to work collaboratively, and at no added cost to the SPD, through grants, awards, etc., to train staff attorneys on sophisticated types of DNA testing and/or other forensic issues.
- Assisted staff attorneys with Daubert challenges, cross examination of expert witnesses at trial, discovery demands, and finding qualified experts.
Anthony and Vincent look forward to continuing with these efforts and discovering how other public defense agencies approach the problem of defending cases involving forensic science and scientific experts.
Practice Group Coordinators
Anthony Rios is an Assistant State Public Defender and Forensic Sciences Practice Group Coordinator at the SPD. As a Coordinator, Anthony provides advice and consultation to SPD staff members and private bar attorneys taking SPD cases involving forensic issues, works with the SPD Training Division in the development and delivery of forensics training, and helps to develop and maintain a forensics practice website. Anthony works in the Madison Trial Office. Anthony graduated from the University of California – Santa Barbara in 2005 and the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2008. While in law school, Anthony was a clinic student at the Wisconsin Innocence Project and a member of the Wisconsin International Law Journal.
Vincent Rust is an Asst. State Public Defender and Forensic Practice Coordinator at the SPD. As a Forensic Practice Coordinator, Vincent provides consultation and trial assistance to attorneys regarding forensic issues, coordinates agency interaction with forensic experts, works with the SPD Training Division in providing forensic training for attorneys and investigators, and helps maintain the SPD Forensics website. As an attorney and Asst. State Public Defender in LaCrosse County, Vincent represents clients in all types of criminal cases, from misdemeanor to intentional homicide cases, as well as Chapter 980 cases (Wisconsin's Sexually Violent Person Involuntary Commitment Law).