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Former Bexar Medical Examiner Tapped For Seat On National Commission On Forensic Science

A longtime medical examiner for Bexar County has been appointed to the newly-formed National Commission on Forensic Science.

The commission, which meets for the first time in February, was created last year to establish national standards to help assure the scientific value and accuracy of evidence in criminal cases and investigations.

Dr. Vincent DiMaio of San Antonio, who is now a consultant, said lawmakers and the president became interested in standardizing evidence after DNA evidence began to disprove convictions.

DiMaio said standards for forensics will help to ensure against future miscarriages of justice.

"One of the things was a hair comparison," he said. "People would get hair from the scene and hair from the suspect and say, ‘This hair definitely came from this individual.’ And they did this by microscopic examination. Well, it turns out you can’t do that."

Brette Steele, senior counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, said standards developed will be available to anyone in the process who chooses to reference them.

"They will be available for prosecutors to use and also for defense attorneys to use, and labs as well," Steele said. "If there’s a standard saying that there should be written quality assurance standards within laboratories, laboratories can adopt those quality assurance standards."

DiMaio, who spent 25 years as Bexar County’s Chief Medical Examiner and has authored four books on forensics, was on the team that autopsied Lee Harvey Oswald. He is often cited as a national expert on gunshot wounds and has been called to testify in numerous high-profile trials, including the recent case against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin.

DiMaio joins 29 others on the commission, including a Nobel Laureate, a Medal of Science winner, a state Supreme Court justice and other professionals from the criminal justice field across the country.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.