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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Bad Evidence

• by Liliana Segura, Jordan

In a fluorescent-lit ballroom atop Baltimore's downtown convention center, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler stepped off the stage and began to pace. He'd had 14 cups of coffee, he boomed, along with a Hershey's bar with almonds. He was not about to stay still.

It was a snowy morning in late February. Sattler, a motivational speaker and retired Marine who once directed strategic planning for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the final panelist at the opening plenary of the 71st Scientific Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. The annual conference brings together lawyers, scientists, and forensic practitioners from around the world to discuss the latest research and pressing issues in the field. The plenary sets the tone for the event — past speakers have included U.S. Deputy Attorneys General Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein — while providing occasional entertainment. At the academy's 2010 meeting in Seattle, the plenary featured a performer called the Physics Chanteuse, who sang provocatively about scientific validity.

A leadership consultant often serving corporate clients, Sattler had no specialized background in forensics. But he was determined to rev up the crowd. He gamely hit upon the theme of the 2019 meeting, emblazoned somewhat awkwardly on its program: Diligence (to the Effort), Dedication (to the Handling of Details), Devotion (to the Field). "If you took those three Ds and you looked at them every morning, you conducted your daily activities with those as your standard, I don't think you could do wrong," he said.