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2022 IDS Forensic Science Education Series: Challenging the foundational validity of a forensic method

March 3 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Live webinar presented by Attorney Hannah Autry, and Assistant Public Defender Samantha Grill, and Pate Skene, J.D., Ph.D.
Mar. 3, 2022, 12:30-2 pm
90 min of CLE credit anticipated 

Indigent Defense Services and the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office will offer a series of monthly webinars which prepare attorneys to challenge unreliable forensic science evidence in 702/Daubert hearings. The second program in the series will examine challenging whether an expert’s testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods. This discussion will set the stage for a day-long CLE the following day which addresses challenges to firearms evidence.

In this program, Dr. Skene will address what type of scientific research is needed to validate a forensic method. He will discuss study design, including open vs closed set, black box studies, and neutral study administrators. Dr. Skene will also discuss error rates and different types of error including false positive, false negative, and inconclusive errors.

After setting out the framework for evaluating whether testimony is the product of reliable principles and method, the presenters will consider several practical aspects of making a 702 challenge, including selecting the right kind of expert to question the foundational validity of a discipline and the timing of such a challenge. Hannah Autry and Samantha Grill will present case examples and discuss the pros and cons of having a pre-trial hearing versus making the challenge during trial on voir dire of the state’s expert.

This program is part of the 2022 IDS Forensic Science Education Series. The webinars will be presented monthly and are free to attend. Attorneys who want CLE credit for attending will be billed $3.50 per credit hour by the State Bar. Use this link to register for all webinars in the series and attend any that are of interest.

Hannah Autry, J.D.
Hannah is a staff attorney at Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL), where she has been working since 2017.  She represents death-sentenced clients in state and federal post-conviction proceedings, clients charged with first degree murder at the trial level, and clients facing low level felonies in Durham.  She regularly attends national and North Carolina conferences focused on issues surrounding the death penalty, death penalty litigation, forensic sciences, and race.  She was a member of the 2017-2018 cohort of the Racial Equity Network, a group of attorneys who aim to promote a more racially equitable justice system. She serves on the board of The Decarceration Project, a Durham-based nonprofit. Before joining CDPL, Hannah practiced in the public defender’s office in Frankfort, Kentucky, where she represented clients facing charges ranging from misdemeanors to murder.  A native of Cumberland County, Hannah received her undergraduate degree at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with honors from North Carolina Central University School of Law in May 2013.


Samantha Grill, J.D.
Samantha Grill is an Assistant Public Defender in the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office.  She received her undergraduate degree from The College of William and Mary and her law degree from Duke University School of Law.  Samantha has been an Assistant Public Defender for about ten years and currently represents individuals facing habitual felon status.


J.H. Pate Skene, Ph.D., J.D.
Pate Skene is a neurobiologist and attorney investigating brain mechanisms involved in decision-making related to law, cooperation, and risk. Pate’s research focuses on the evolution of brain mechanisms important for social cooperation in humans and other primates, and application of this research in criminal and civil litigation and regulatory policy. His legal practice focuses on scientific evidence and expert testimony in criminal and civil litigation. His areas of expertise include the cognitive neuroscience of decision-making, human factors in laboratory procedures, and the evaluation of scientific and technical evidence by courts and regulatory agencies. Pate’s scientific background includes more than 30 years as director of a laboratory conducting research in molecular genomics, biochemistry, and cognitive neuroscience. He currently serves on the Human Factors Task Group and the Forensic Toxicology subcommittee of the Organization of Scientific Advisory Committees on forensic sciences at NIST. Laboratory research interests include the evolutionary genomics and functional imaging of brain mechanisms involved in complex social decision-making and large-scale cooperation in humans.



March 3
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
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