CHICAGO, Oct. 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Relativity, the developer of the leading e-discovery platform, and the ABA Center for Innovation today announced the first phase of the DFNDER (Distributed Forensic Expert Network Delegating Review) Project. The DFNDER Project is a distributed network of forensic experts, attorneys, and academics investigating potential cases of wrongful conviction across the U.S.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 2016 set a record for exculpations in the United States: 168 people were vindicated after being wrongly convicted of crimes. The DFNDER Project is designed with a purpose in mind to increase that number and, ultimately, help free the innocent.
The DFNDER Project has three key goals:
- To improve the review process of wrongful convictions nationwide with the help of e-discovery technology;
- To collect data and define the key factors contributing to a wrongful conviction based on forensic science;
- And to develop a talent pipeline through which both law and forensic science students can gain real-world experience in a meaningful work environment.
Currently, the DFNDER Project is working with the Midwest Innocence Project in Kansas City, Mo., and the Iowa State Public Defender's Wrongful Conviction Division to determine how e-discovery technology can improve their review of potential cases involving wrongful convictions. Other project partners are the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law and the Arson Research Project, among others.
As its first focus, the DFNDER Project is looking to define the relationship between cognitive biases and two of the most common forensic techniques which produce invalidated or improper evidence: microscopic hair analysis and arson investigation. One of the recent reports published by the FBI, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and the Innocence Project concluded that FBI testimony on microscopic hair analysis contained testimonial errors in more than 90 percent of cases in an ongoing review.
Relativity will help the DFNDER Project bring the work of the distributed network of legal and forensic experts to one e-discovery platform. Using Relativity will allow the team to break the workflow into components, match those components with corresponding experts, and facilitate the review and analysis of case documents, including identifying cognitive bias and trends related to wrongful convictions. Equipped with advanced analytics and powerful visualizations, Relativity will also allow the DFNDER Project to follow an investigative pattern of thought and make data-driven decisions around potential cases of wrongful conviction.
"With Relativity and a growing network of legal and forensic experts, the DFENDR Project should be better equipped to accelerate the review of wrongful convictions around the country," said Bryan Wilson, head of the DFNDER Project and a fellow at the ABA Center for Innovation. "We're looking forward to setting an example of how the legal community can use technology to fight injustices caused by incorrect assumptions about human behavior."
Relativity provided the DFNDER Project with access to its e-discovery technology through the company's Academic Partner program, an educational initiative that equips law schools and paralegal programs with free access to hands-on training in Relativity and helps prepare students for future roles in the field.
"We're honored to assist the DFNDER Project, helping the legal community find the truth while freeing those who have suffered wrongful convictions," said David Horrigan, e-discovery counsel and legal content director at Relativity. "For many years, people thought e-discovery law was only for large corporations in complex commercial litigation. In today's digital age, finding the truth through e-discovery is critical in almost every case."
At Relativity, we make software to help users organize data, discover the truth, and act on it. Our e-discovery platform is used by more than 13,000 organizations around the world – in the cloud, on-premises, or both – to manage large volumes of data and quickly identify key issues during litigation, internal investigations, and compliance projects. Relativity has over 160,000 active users in 40+ countries from organizations including the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 70 Fortune 100 companies, and 199 of the Am Law 200. As a platform, Relativity also allows developers to design, build, and integrate applications that extend its functionality. Relativity has been named one of Chicago's Top Workplaces by the Chicago Tribune for six consecutive years. Please contact Relativity at [email protected] or visit http://www.relativity.com for more information.
About the American Bar Association (ABA):
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.
Mariya Barnes, Relativity