O.J. Simpson trial helped revolutionize forensic science, including in Florida

O.J. Simpson trial helped revolutionize forensic science, including in Florida

After the O.J. Simpson trial, Kevin Lothridge says his life, and his career field, changed forever.

“The O.J. trial brought to light there was a profession called forensic science,” he said. “It was the first time that forensic science was brought to the forefront in a public televised trial.”

Lothridge is the Deputy Executive Director at FIU’s Global Forensic and Justice Center in Largo. He said the National Forensic Science Technology Center, later known as the Global Forensic and Justice Center, was founded in response to how DNA was handled in the O.J. Simpson case.

The American Society of Crime Lab Directors, the organization that all crime lab leadership belongs to, saw a need to standardize DNA in the crime lab and in the courtroom following the trial, Lothridge said.

PREVIOUS: O.J. Simpson dies at age 76, family says

“The community itself knew that from that day forward, they were going to have to be ready for intense scrutiny of the work they do and the fact that the work that they do is very, very important and as trained professionals, they had a duty to make sure they got better every day,” he said.

The American Society of Crime Lab Directors gave Lothridge and a group of forensic scientists $1,500 “and the mission to do good things,” he said.

“In 1995, in the state of Florida, to incorporate a 501(c)(3) not for profit, it cost us $1,475, and we had the other $25 that we had to use to get ourselves ready because they said, ‘don’t come back for any additional funding,’” Lothridge said.

Lothridge was the director of the Pinellas County Forensic Lab at the time, and on the board of American Society of Crime Lab Directors. He said the first few goals of the new technology center headquartered in Pinellas County were helping labs get accredited, help with additional training and help explaining DNA in a court setting.

“This was the first trial where we had DNA experts, and we also had attorneys who got to be really smart on DNA as well. So, you really needed to say to the normal people in state and local courts, not the folks in the O.J. trial, ‘how can DNA technology be applied? How do you collect it? How do you protect it from contamination? What can you really tell from a DNA profile,’” Lothridge said.

RELATED: How OJ Simpson’s trial changed perceptions around domestic violence

In the nearly three decades since the trial, technology has advanced from taking weeks to generate DNA profiles, to just 90 minutes. Lothridge said the Center has grown right along with it, beyond focusing just on DNA.

“DNA was the first focus because of the O.J. Simpson trial, but what really came to be the focus was quality systems support, helping people get ready for accreditation, reviewing their product processes and procedures, and then looking at where the gaps existed in training, but not just for the laboratories, for the customers of the laboratories,” he said.

“I believe that [the engagement in the trial] drove the technology we’re using today. If we didn’t have this trial, we probably wouldn’t have as many new technologies available,” Lothridge said. “We really grew the NFSTC so that the public had the full confidence of forensic science, because at the end of the O.J. trial, they didn’t really have confidence in the science, and the science is the most important thing.”

The Center also does several other things, including training law enforcement agencies on new technologies.

SIGN UP: Click here to sign up for the FOX 13 daily newsletter


Source link

News Science