Local judge to serve on new Task Force on Forensic Science


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently 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,”’ she said. “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.” 

“The Task Force will be an advisory body nested within the Michigan Department of State Police and comprise 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.”

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 will include Michigan State Police Director Col. Joseph Gasper and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, who will serve as co-chairs. It will also include MSP Forensic Science Division Director Jeff Nye, Attorney General Dana Nessel or her designee, and Kent County 17th Circuit Court Judge Paul J. Denenfeld.

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.

 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.

Brandon N. Giroux, of Northville, is the president of Giroux Forensic, Inc. and Forensic Assurance, Inc. 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.

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. Jentzen has served as 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.

 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.

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.

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.

Ruth Smith, Ph.D., of Okemos, is a professor of forensic chemistry and 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.

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.

The following members of the Legislature will serve as participants: Sen. John Bizon, Sen. Stephanie Chang, Rep. Robert Bezotte, and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky.

These appointments are not subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. 

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