History of the Scientific Working Group for Medicolegal Death Investigation (SWGMDI)
The judicial system in the United States currently has two standards used in the determination of admissibility of testimony regarding scientific evidence; the Daubert Standard and the Frye Standard. These standards guide the courts in the admissibility of testimony derived from the use of new technologies and scientific techniques. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), seeking to address possible admissibility issues with such testimony, established Scientific Working Groups starting with the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis and Methods (SWGDAM) in 1988. The goal of these groups is to open lines of communication between law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories around the world while providing guidance on the use of new and innovative technologies and techniques. This guidance can lead to admissibility of evidence and/or testimony, provided proper methods in the collection of evidence and its analysis are employed. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences released a report entitled, "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward." This report addresses many topics including challenges and disparities facing the forensic science community, standardization, certification of practitioners and accreditation of their respective entities, problems related to the interpretation of forensic evidence, the need for research, and the admission of forensic science evidence in litigation. This report mentions the Scientific Working Groups and their role in forensic science. In fact, the NAS Report specifically recommends the formation of a scientific working group for forensic pathology.
In June 2010, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the National Center for Forensic Science held a Forensic Death Investigation Symposium in Scottsdale Arizona. It was at this symposium attended by members of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS), National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME), the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners (IACME), the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigation (ABMDI) and numerous subject matter experts (SME) - that the idea emerged to broaden the NAS report recommendation to form a forensic pathology SWG and instead, form a Scientific Working Group for Medicolegal Death Investigation.
Members representing each of the above professional organizations started with a list of SME’s in the field that would be invited to participate in the initial development of a NIJ/FBI sponsored Scientific Working Group for Medicolegal Death Investigation (SWGMDI). In March 2011, the first development meeting was held in Pittsburg, Pa to begin the process of selecting the initial SWGMDI officers and board members, development and adoption of bylaws and recommendations for advisory subcommittee subject matter and membership which have been accomplished and resulted in the development of newest scientific working group (SWG) which is SWGMDI!
1 Forensic Science Communications, July 2000 Volume 2 Number 3.
2. National Research Council of the National Academies (2009), Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, ISBN 0-309-13131-6, Strengthening Oversight of Forensic Science Practice, Standards and Guidelines for Quality Control, Pp 202-206
3. National Research Council of the National Academies (2009), Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, ISBN 0-309-13131-6, Strengthening Oversight of Forensic Science Practice, Standards and Guidelines for Quality Control