Forensic Science Evidence and Expert Witness Testimony
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Forensic Science Evidence and Expert Witness Testimony

Reliability through Reform?

Edited by Paul Roberts and Michael Stockdale

Forensic science evidence plays a pivotal role in modern criminal proceedings. Yet such evidence poses intense practical and theoretical challenges. It can be unreliable or misleading and has been associated with miscarriages of justice. In this original and insightful book, a global team of prominent scholars and practitioners explore the contemporary challenges of forensic science evidence and expert witness testimony from a variety of theoretical, practical and jurisdictional perspectives. Chapters encompass the institutional organisation of forensic science, its procedural regulation, evaluation and reform, and brim with comparative insight.
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Chapter 2: Re-assessing reliability

Gary Edmond

Abstract

This chapter charts the slow and still remarkably limited legal engagement with reliability (and validation) in criminal proceedings in the US, Canada, Australia, and England and Wales. Drawing upon scientific research on expertise and scientific reviews of the forensic sciences, it considers why trial and appellate courts continue to struggle with validity and reliability when admitting and evaluating forensic science evidence, decades after Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc (1993), the emergence of Innocence Projects, and in the aftermath of seminal reviews by Justice Goudge (2008), the National Academy of Sciences (2009), Justice Campbell (2011), the National Institute for Standards and Technology (2012), and President Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (2016). Recent scientific reviews suggest that legal institutions: have been ineffective in regulating the forensic sciences; have been incapable of recognizing that traditional procedures, rules and safeguards are at best highly variable in their effects; and have failed to consider how they might begin to systematically engage with authoritative research and advice in order to enhance legal consciousness and place legal practice on firmer epistemic foundations. This chapter illustrates how lawyers and judges, wedded to conventional legal values and the effectiveness of trial safeguards, struggle to recognise the magnitude of evidentiary problems posed by forensic science evidence and their implications for fundamental criminal justice values.

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