The report was hailed by many defense attorneys, scientists and law professors, who for years have been raising scientific and legal challenges.
"The courts were highly skeptical of experts and resistant to hearing their arguments," said Simon A. Cole, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine who has often testified for defense teams about the limitations of fingerprint evidence. "I feel like I'm Alice coming out of the rabbit hole and back into a world of sanity and reason."
The report had harsh words for the FBI Laboratory and the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department, which have shown little enthusiasm for exploring the shortcomings of forensic science.
"Neither agency has recognized, let alone articulated, a need for change," the report states, adding that they could be subject to pro-prosecution biases.
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. signaled in comments to reporters shortly before the report was released that he would take its concerns seriously: "I think we need to devote a lot of attention and a lot of resources to that problem."
Prosectors on the front lines, however, were more skeptical. "I know the defense is probably starting bonfires, but this should not in any way shake up anyone's confidence in forensics," said Paula Wulff, manager and senior attorney of the DNA Forensic Program of the National District Attorneys Assn.
She called the recommendations a "Cadillac of aspirations," and expressed doubt that they would be followed given the poor state of the economy.
All sides, however, agreed that the report signals an aggressive reentry of scientists into issues that for decades have fallen to lawyers, judges and juries to resolve.
Steve Mills of the Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.