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New eDiscovery Platform to Help the Wrongfully Convicted

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

When it comes to wrongful convictions, usually it's the Innocence Project making headlines. However, it was recently announced that a joint project by the ABA Center for Innovation and the makers of the popular ediscovery software, Relativity, will be helping to stop and fight wrongful convictions.

The project is called DFENDR, which stands for Distributed Forensic Expert Network Delegating Review. Basically, Relativity has set up an ediscovery platform to allow for remote expert review of forensic evidence in potential wrongful conviction cases. Yes, that's a whole lot to unpack.

What Does DFNDER Do?

While it may not be SCMODS, the project has three stated goals:

  • Improve the review process of wrongful convictions nationwide using e-discovery technology.
  • Collect data and define key factors contributing to convictions based on faulty science.
  • Develop a talent pipeline where law and forensic science students can gain real-world experience in a meaningful work environment.

In addition to leveraging technology to collect data that will allow researchers to better understand wrongful conviction cases, DFENDR creates a platform and talent network to do much of the review work.

Relativity Speaking

Since the project is still in testing, the focus is on forensic review of hair sample evidence, as well as arson cases. The project is currently limited to only a few groups, but can potentially see more widespread use in the future. It is currently only being utilized by the Midwest Innocence Project of Kansas City, Mo., and the Iowa State Public Defender's Wrongful Conviction Division. The reason for limiting the focus to hair sample forensics may seem out of left field, but the FBI and other groups found that microscopic hair forensics contained testimonial errors in over 90 percent of cases where it was used.

Relativity issued a statement expressing pleasure at being able to be part of the project and for helping to bring the legal technology, once thought of as only being accessible to large firms, into the sectors that need it most.

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