Governor Whitmer signs executive order establishing Task Force on Forensic Science
LANSING – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order No. 2021-04, establishing the Task Force on Forensic Science.
“A fair trial is at the core of the American criminal justice system,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “While forensic science is an important tool, misapplication of forensic science can deprive a person of a fair trial. We must ensure that Michigan adheres to the highest standards of evidence, and that practitioners throughout our criminal justice system understand how to apply forensic science properly.”
“Michigan will always ensure that the highest standards are being met when it comes to justice,” said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. “The work of the Forensic Science Task Force will ensure that our legal and criminal justice systems can keep up with the times. The Governor and I look forward to their recommendations.”
The Task Force will be an advisory body nested within the Michigan Department of State Police and be comprised of medical practitioners, legal professionals, government officials, academics, private sector experts, and representatives from the Michigan State Police, Michigan Supreme Court, and Attorney General’s office.
“I’m honored to take on this important work to ensure that our criminal legal system delivers justice for the people of Michigan,” said Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack. “Michigan can be a national leader in better science promoting better justice.”
“As a national leader in forensic science, the Michigan State Police is committed to further improving the use of forensic science in Michigan through the work of this advisory panel,” stated Col. Joe Gasper, director of the MSP. “We look forward to working alongside the other stakeholders to ensure that Michigan continues to set a high bar for forensic science.”
The task force’s mission is to review the state of forensic science in Michigan and deliver their completed findings and policy recommendations to the Governor no later than December 31, 2021. The findings will recommend, among other pieces, methodology improvements, processes to address misconduct, and procedures to update stakeholders on developments in forensic science.
The Task Force on Forensic Science will include Director Col. Joseph Gasper of the Michigan State Police and Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack of the Michigan Supreme Court who will serve as co-chairs of the task force. It will also include Jeff Nye, the director of the MSP Forensic Science Division, Attorney General Dana Nessel or her designee, and Judge Paul J. Denenfeld of the 17th Circuit Court of Kent County who was designated by the Chief Justice. Four members of the Legislature, two from the Senate and two from the House of Representatives, will also participate as non-voting members.
The Governor has appointed the following members to the Task Force:
— Christopher R. Bommarito, of Williamston, is the president and chief forensic scientist of Forensic Science Consultants, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Criminalistics and a Master of Science in Forensic Science from Michigan State University. Mr. Bommarito is appointed to represent forensic science practitioners with at least five years of experience in the field for a term commencing Apr. 2 and expiring Dec. 31.
— Kent Gardner, of Davison, is the administrator of forensic lab services for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from Wayne State University and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University. Mr. Gardner is appointed to represent a forensic science practitioner from a county forensic service provider for a term commencing Apr. 2 and expiring Dec. 31.
— Brandon N. Giroux, of Northville, is the president of Giroux Forensic, Inc. and Forensic Assurance, Inc. Mr. Giroux is also a forensic firearm and tool mark instructor and consultant for the National Forensic Science Technology Center and a forensic science instructor at Wayne State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in Forensic Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mr. Giroux is appointed to represent forensic science practitioners with at least five years of experience in the field for a term commencing Apr. 2 and expiring Dec. 31.
— Jeffrey M. Jentzen, M.D., Ph.D., of Ann Arbor, is a clinical professor emeritus of pathology for the University of Michigan Department of Pathology. Dr. Jentzen has served as the chief medical examiner for Washtenaw County and deputy medical examiner for Wayne County. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Michigan Technological University, Doctor of Medicine from Wayne State University, and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Medical History from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Jentzen is appointed to represent a board-certified pathologist with experience in forensic pathology. He will serve for a term commencing Apr. 2 and expiring Dec. 31.
— Barbara O’Brien, Ph.D., of East Lansing, is a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Bowdoin College, Juris Doctor degree from the University of Colorado Law School, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. O’Brien is appointed to represent an individual from the private sector or from a university in this state who has published scholarship related to cognitive bias. She will serve for a term commencing Apr. 2 and expiring Dec. 31.
— Jonathan Sacks, of Ann Arbor, is the director of the State Appellate Defender Office. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in European History from the University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School. Mr. Sacks is appointed to represent a public defender or criminal defense attorney for a term commencing Apr. 2, and expiring Dec. 31.
— Donald Shelton, Ph.D., of Saline, is the director of the criminology and criminal justice program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and program director for their Justice Reform Project, Alternatives to Violent Force. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science from Western Michigan University, Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan School of Law, Master of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Eastern Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada. Shelton is appointed to represent individuals from the private sector or from a university in this state who have earned a doctoral degree in a distinct field relevant to forensic science and who have published scholarship related to the field in a peer-reviewed journal. He will serve for a term commencing Apr. 2, and expiring Dec. 31.
— Ruth Smith, Ph.D., of Okemos, is a professor of forensic chemistry and the director of the forensic science program at Michigan State University. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Ph.D. in Forensic and Analytical Chemistry from the University of Strathclyde. Smith is appointed to represent individuals from the private sector or from a university in this state who have earned a doctoral degree in a distinct field relevant to forensic science and who have published scholarship related to the field in a peer-reviewed journal. She will serve for a term commencing Apr. 2, and expiring Dec. 31.
— Matthew J. Wiese, of Marquette, is the prosecuting attorney for Marquette County. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Northern Michigan University and a Juris Doctor degree from Vermont Law School. Mr. Wiese is appointed to represent a prosecuting attorney for a term commencing Apr. 2, and expiring Dec. 31.
The following members of the Legislature will serve as participants on the Task Force: Sen. John Bizon designated by the Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Stephanie Chang designated by the Senate Minority Leader, Rep. Robert Bezotte designated by the Speaker of the House, and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky designated by the House Minority Leader.
These appointments are not subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.