You probably wonder what exactly are the criteria for having a great future in forensics. Years of college and post graduate studies? Years of experience in the trenches? Brilliant articles published in respected scientific journals?
How about the ability to draw a picture on the back of a match book? Not even that much.
This is how I — a journalism graduate student with no background in forensics — became certified as a “Forensic Consultant” by one of the field’s largest professional groups.
One afternoon early last year, I punched in my credit card information, paid $495 to the American College of Forensic Examiners International Inc. and registered for an online course.
After about 90 minutes of video instruction, I took an exam on the institute’s web site, answering 100multiple choice questions, aided by several ACFEI study packets.
As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an expert witness in criminal and civil trials.
For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate.
How cool is that! And now you can take the witness stand, make up crap and put people in prison for life. Or longer!
Whether hair, fiber, fingerprints, ballistics and, if they get their way, soon to be duct tape, experts take to the stand and opine in such a way as to reach conclusions that jurors are incapable of reaching on their own. The idea was that jurors lacked the education and experience, when it may mean nothing more than jurors never put their $495 on the table.
Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.
That’s right, it’s take seriously. Deadly seriously. It doesn’t mean that some people who are putatively competent to serve as “experts” aren’t worthy of credentals, but rather than ACFEI is a mill, and anybody, competent or otherwise, can be an expert if they have a spare hour and a half of their life.
Anybody? Yes, anybody:
But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz  – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne , a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.
Not only is the credentialling available from ACFEI nonsense, but the very efficacy of soft forensic sciences is a product of wholesale fabrication, which used enough in court creates a veneer of reality that eventually is believed by judges, juries and the publc. Want to become a duct tape expert? Just create the American Society of Duct Tape Examiners, and put out the Duct Tape Science Review every quarter. In no time, it will be real and you will be the foremost duct tape expert in the country.
When somebody is found with duct tape on their nasty dead body, you will be the first person GMA calls for comment. Make sure you have a clean suit available. And this really cool certificate.