14:16 PM

Professor Emeritus Nicole Cásarez Presents Paper at International Conference

Professor Emeritus Nicole Casarez, J.D.University of St. Thomas-Houston Professor Emeritus in Communication and attorney, Nicole Cásarez, recently presented virtually on the Houston Forensic Science Center’s Blind Proficiency Testing at the Conférence Publique de l'Ecole des Sciences Criminelles international conference at Université de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Cásarez's Leadership at Houston Forensic Science Center

Cásarez served on the Houston Forensic Science Center board for seven years, four as chair. During her service, she helped transform Houston's scandal-ridden crime lab into a world-recognized forensic center. The board was set up in 2012 by then-Mayor Annise Parker to govern the crime lab after the Houston Police Department relinquished control of it. A local government corporation was established to create an independent lab following recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences.

 Cásarez's Presentation

Her presentation described a significant breakthrough in developing a statistical foundation for forensic science disciplines: a cutting-edge blind proficiency testing program operating in six disciplines at the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC).

Key points in her presentation were:

 • Explaining the difference between standard proficiency testing employed by most crime labs and the blind proficiency testing used by the HFSC.

• Describing both the challenges and the benefits of blind proficiency testing.

• Exploring why the calculation of error rates for forensic disciplines is crucial to strengthening real science and discrediting junk science. The presentation showed why criminal justice stakeholders should urge other large forensic laboratories to implement similar blind proficiency testing programs to develop the statistical data needed to prove (or disprove) the scientific validity of the forensic disciplines.

Cásarez's Education and Esteemed Career

Cásarez taught courses in wrongful convictions, media law, media ethics and journalism at St. Thomas. She has also taught constitutional law, privacy law and First Amendment law at the University of Houston Law Center. She has a Bachelor of Journalism, a law degree from the University of Texas, and a Master's in Communication/Public Relations Management from the University of Houston. She writes and frequently speaks about First Amendment, privacy and criminal justice issues, and in 2009, she was elected to the American Law Institute. Cásarez received national media attention in connection with the case of Texas death row inmate Anthony Graves, who was exonerated in the fall of 2010. She was appointed to the Houston Forensic Science Center's board of directors in 2012 and served as board chair from 2015–2019.

Cásarez now lives in Colorado.