Forensic Evidence in Arizona: Reforms for Victims and Defendants

Valena E. Beety

Executive Summary

This Article recognizes the strengths of the current forensic evidence system in Arizona and proposes innovative reforms appropriate for labs that are leaders in the field. Arizona is particularly well situated to increase its lab independence and to serve additional members of the criminal legal community: namely, defendants and victims.

Regarding defendants, this Article recommends greater transparency and accessibility to fundamental scientific lab findings for defense attorneys, similar to the practices of well-known independent crime labs such as the Houston Forensic Science Center. Additionally, the volunteer-run Arizona Forensic Science Advisory Committee can ensure greater integrity for forensic evidence in the courtroom if it is staffed, ideally with a staff attorney.

Regarding victims, this Article proposes that police departments shift resources to hire more civilian crime scene investigators. More civilian investigators can increase responsiveness to property crimes for victims and also identify the scope of the property crime problem in regularly impacted neighborhoods. Economically struggling neighborhoods are frequently overpoliced for controlled substances violations, yet law enforcement is simultaneously under-responsive to victims of property crime in these communities.

These proposals in the interest of defendants, victims, and the integrity of the Arizona criminal legal system may be more likely to occur alongside ultimate independence for the Arizona crime labs. Independent labs would respond directly to the Governor rather than serve within the Department of Public Safety and individual police departments.

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