Guns for D.C.?
Brian Doherty reports ("Guns for D.C.?," March) that "the 1939 case U.S. v. Miller…upheld convictions for moving sawed-off shotguns across state lines." This is a typical example of the unfortunate mythology that has sprung up around this crucial case.
U.S. v. Miller upheld no convictions, because Miller was never convicted. Hauled into court twice by the feds, Miller twice had his case thrown out without trial by a judge who opined that the National Firearms Act was repugnant to the Second Amendment on its face. A free man, Miller skipped to Cuba while the government appealed to the Supreme Court for a second opinion.
Moreover, the Court never ruled whether or not the weapons in question were suitable for militia use and thereby protected under the Second Amendment, nor did it rule on whether or not the National Firearms Act of 1934 was constitutional. Its sole ruling was to direct the subordinate judge to proceed to hear the case, because there were issues of evidence and fact that needed to be argued and considered—the most important of which was whether the weapons in question were suitable for militia use. Only after this question had been examined could the other two issues be resolved.
Since Miller met his end in a creek bed shortly before the Court's ruling was published, the trial was never held. Arguably, this point of law was never actually settled despite nearly 70 years of misinterpretation of Miller by subsequent courts.
C. D. Tavares
Whatever Happened to Tax Cuts?
David Weigel calls the FairTax idea promoted by Mike Huckabee "glib" ("Whatever Happened to Tax Cuts?," March). I believe the FairTax was the only idea Huckabee had going for him in the race. It is not just some passing thought that was thrown out for political reasons. The FairTax is backed by millions of grassroots participants and very prominent economists. In my humble opinion, the FairTax, along with the repeal of Social Security and Medicare, is the only reform that can set us up for enough economic growth to get us out of the impending fiscal disaster in the national debt level.
Please do not put the FairTax into the category of some fly-by-night political scheme.
"CSI: Mississippi" (November) contains erroneous information that disparages the good name the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI) has worked for many years to achieve.
Radley Balko states that the subject of the article, Steven T. Hayne, lists the American Academy of Forensic Examiners on his C.V. and that "forensic experts interviewed for this article say it is an alternate name for the American College of Forensic Examiners, which has been criticized by legal experts as a mail-order outfit where the only necessary qualification is a check." The American Academy of Forensic Examiners has never been an "alias" for, nor had any affiliation with, the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute. Balko's statement is false and disparaging, and qualifying it with "it has been suggested" does not excuse his personal liability for printing this damaging statement.
The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute is not a "mail-order outfit," nor is it "widely criticized." The ACFEI is the world's largest forensic science association and has among its members many leading forensic professionals. ACFEI offers its members many benefits, including national conferences, certification programs, continuing education credits that are honored by respected national organizations, and many other services.
Balko's statement that "qualifying prospective students" is based solely on the amount of money they are willing to pay is recklessly false and damaging. We publish our standards for certification with each of our certification programs. We require documentation of the background for every member who is certified, and our staff verifies the background of each professional we certify. We turn away many certification applicants who either cannot be adequately verified or who fail the strenuous certification examination.
Balko states that Hayne was "grandfathered" into certification without an exam. This shows a lack of understanding of how certification works. Many new certification programs, whether initiated by the ACFEI or any other respected certifying organization, go through a process where initial members are qualified for certification based on experience and education. This is often done through a point system. The qualifications for the point system were established by a board of peer professionals, and points may be tallied based on education, experience, and professional background. As the certification matures, those who are certified come together to identify competencies that must be required for certification and develop an examination that will be used to analyze an applicant's mastery of those competencies. At this point, the grandfathering period ends and new applicants for certification must be tested.
Hayne has met the requirements established to receive his status with ACFEI, including no felony convictions or ethical violations in the last 10 years as well as not being under investigation by any legal accounting or licensing board, appropriate educational degrees from accredited universities, five years of relevant experience in a forensic-related field, and other requirements, which can be viewed online at acfei.com.
The members of our organization become certified in order to show that they have met our rigorous certification standards. Our certification programs not only recognize the training and experience of forensic professionals; they raise the standards of the forensic science professions.
Chief Association Officer
American College of Forensic Examiners Institute
Radley Balko replies: I'm not the first to report on ACFEI's dubious reputation among respected forensic experts. The Wall Street Journal and the American Bar Association Journal have both described the group's lax credentialing standards, with quotes from experts describing the group as a "certification mill" and an issuer of "worthless pieces of paper." When ACFEI attempted to affiliate with a state university in Missouri, that state's education officials were flooded with objections from forensic experts all over the country.
ACFEI may have defenders in some areas of forensics. But in the field of forensic pathology, I couldn't find any at all. While researching my article, I asked four renowned, well-published medical examiners their opinions of ACFEI. All were dismissive of ACFEI's credibility.
It's odd that Nesbitt only now reveals that Hayne is a member of his organization. While reporting my story about Hayne, I called ACFEI twice to inquire about Hayne's certification. Both times I was told that ACFEI doesn't reveal information about its members to the press. I've spoken with lawyers who got the same response when they've called to inquire about Hayne. I know of no other professional credentialing organization that keeps its membership secret.
The American Board of Medical Specialties is the only accepted certifying organization for medical specialties. The problem is that Hayne took the American Board examination in forensic pathology in the 1980s and failed it. Yet he still routinely testifies in court that he is "board certified" in forensic pathology, relying on his ACFEI certification (as well as credentials from other, even less reputable organizations) for cover. Hayne has testified that his ACFEI certification required only a C.V. and a list of accomplishments, saying he was "grandfathered" into certification. Thus, ACFEI's certification has enabled Hayne to testify in thousands of cases during the last 20 years, despite the fact that his methods and practices have been widely criticized by his peers and colleagues.
Even after all that has come out about Hayne over the last several months, including his role in two wrongful convictions in Mississippi, ACFEI has yet to revoke his certification. That alone speaks volumes about the high standards that Nesbitt says underlie ACFEI's certification.