Today@Sam Article

Forensic Science Faculty Appointed To Texas Commission

Jan. 17, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

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Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice professors Sarah Kerrigan and Sheree Hughes-Stamm have been appointed by Gov. Gregg Abbott to serve on the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a statewide body that accredits crime labs and investigates complaints of professional negligence or misconduct in forensic science.

The nine-member commission is one of a few statewide agencies to serve as a watchdog in the forensic science disciplines and has tackled controversial issues including the interpretation of microscopic hair analysis, mixed DNA samples and bite marks.

Most recently, the commission was involved in developing a process for collecting DNA from the bodies of almost 400 suspected unauthorized migrants found along the border near the Rio Grande, as well as  auditing the Austin Police Department DNA laboratory, which is no longer operational.

Sarah Kerrigan
Sarah Kerrigan

Kerrigan, chair of the Department of Forensic Science and director of the Institute for Forensic Research, Training and Innovation at SHSU, was appointed to the Forensic Science Standards Board at the National Institute of Standards and Technology/Department of Justice Organization for Scientific Area Committees when it was created in 2014 and spent seven years as a commissioner of the TFSC, for which she served as vice chair until 2014.

Kerrigan served as president of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists and chair of the Toxicology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Science. Trained at the Scotland Yard Forensic Science Laboratory in London, Kerrigan also served as the bureau chief for the state lab in New Mexico and worked for the Justice Department in California.

“I was initially appointed to the commission by then-Attorney General Abbott almost 10 years ago,” said Kerrigan. “As one of the longest-standing commissioners of the TFSC, it was a pleasure to be reappointed by now Gov. Abbott. The commission’s work is critically important in terms of maintaining public confidence in forensic science. I am deeply committed to improving the standard and practice of forensic science in Texas through the commission, but also on a national level.”

Hughes-Stamm
Sheree Hughes-Stamm

Hughes-Stamm, an assistant professor and director of graduate programs in the Department of Forensic Science, was reappointed to her position on the Texas Forensic Science Commission, for which she has served since 2014. She is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, the International Society for Forensic Genetics and the Association of Forensic DNA Analysts and Administrators. She also served on the executive steering committee for a state branch of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society. She specializes in forensic biology, forensic DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, and human anatomy.

“In a large part due to the commission, Texas is a very proactive state in terms of tackling difficult and often contentious forensic issues,” Hughes-Stamm said. “We aim to assist the criminal justice system by establishing procedures and practices to improve the quality of forensic analyses conducted in Texas. I feel very honored to have been given the opportunity to serve the forensic community in this way.”

Kerrigan and Hughes-Stamm will be joined on the commission by Jasmine Drake, a former SHSU faculty member who is now on the faculty at Texas Southern University.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission was established in 2005 in the wake of widespread controversies at crime labs that led to false convictions. Initially, the role of the commission was to investigate allegations of professional negligence or misconduct at facilities across the state.

In 2013, the commission was given the authority to study broader practices in the field, with the exception of autopsies. In 2015, its mission again expanded to include an accreditation process for the state’s crime labs by establishing procedures, policies and practices for forensic science in criminal cases, and a licensing program for forensic scientists.

As part of its mandate, the commission also offers regional training on key issues in the field. Last year, the commission focused on DNA training on mixed samples. Kerrigan will serve through Sept. 1, 2017, and Hughes-Stamm’s term expires on Sept. 1, 2018.

"Our forensic science faculty continue to lead the way in ensuring that our criminal justice system relies on a solid, scientific base," said Phillip Lyons, dean of the College of Criminal Justice and director of the Criminal Justice Center. "Although the statute creating the commission requires that one of the appointees be from Sam Houston State University—which is telling in itself—I believe it is especially noteworthy that two of our faculty have been so appointed."

 

 

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