Friday, February 20, 2009

National Academy of Sciences Report on Forensics

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward is the title of the Congressionally-mandated NAS report on the condition of forensic science. The executive summary states, in part:

It is clear that change and advancements, both systematic and scientific, are needed in a number of forensic science disciplines to ensure the reliability of work, establish enforceable standards, and promote best practices with consistent application.
Chapter 3, The Admission of Forensic Science Evidence in Litigation, will be of great interest to members of the legal community.

The report finds that the existing legal regime--including the rules governing the admissibility of forensic evidence, the applicable standards governing appellate review of trial court decisions, the limitations of the adversary process, and judges and lawyers who often lack the scientific expertise necessary to comprehend and evaluate forensic evidence--is inadequate to the task of curing the documented ills of the forensic science disciplines.
The Frye standard; Federal Rule of Evidence 702; Daubert; and judicial dispositions of questions relating to DNA evidence, drug identification, fingerprint analysis, and other forensic evidence are discussed.

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