100 Years of the National Research Council: A Critical Examination of Judicial References to Forensic Science NAS Reports

Shooter, Amelia (2020) 100 Years of the National Research Council: A Critical Examination of Judicial References to Forensic Science NAS Reports. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Abstract

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is the leading advisor to the United States federal government on matters of science and technology. Since its creation in 1863, it has developed a diverse portfolio of scientific research. One area that the NAS – and its research body, the National Research Council (NRC) – has undertaken considerable research on is forensic science. Between 1992 and 2009, six seminal reports were published: DNA Technology in Forensic Science (1992); The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence (1996); The Polygraph and Lie Detection (2003); Forensic Analysis: Weighing Bullet Lead Evidence (2004); Ballistic Imaging (2008); and Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward (2008). Each has critically engaged with forensic science techniques, highlighted scientific progress, and received considerable engagement from the criminal justice system.

Despite extensive study, there remains a gap discussing how these reports have interplayed with the criminal justice system and the wider legal process norms that govern its actors, admissibility decisions, and consideration of constitutional issues. This thesis seeks to investigate judicial reference to these NAS reports through a comprehensive study of judicial decision-making. It aims to fill gaps left by existing literature through answering the following questions:

• How many times have each of the six NAS reports been referenced in criminal appellate decisions across the United States?
• In what types of legal claims are the NAS reports referenced?
• What is the purpose of the reference to the NAS report(s) within the judgment?
• How does judicial decision-making referencing the forensic science NAS reports reflect legal process values?

This thesis finds 644 decisions referencing these reports. These decisions reflect fidelity to the legal process vision through four principles: the dominance of precedent; deference to institutional settlement; pursuit of finality; and fidelity to the rationality assumption. Findings also raise questions about the relationship between law and science. The author concludes that legal cultural norms and scientific progress can be reconciled through developing legal actors’ forensic science knowledge, facilitated by the NAS.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Dates:
DateEvent
29 November 2019Submitted
26 March 2020Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Judicial Decision-Making; Legal Process; Evidence; Forensic Science; National Academy of Sciences; NAS; National Research Council; Criminal; United States
Subjects: CAH07 - physical sciences > CAH07-04 - general, applied and forensic sciences > CAH07-04-02 - forensic and archaeological sciences
CAH16 - law > CAH16-01 - law > CAH16-01-01 - law
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2022 11:22
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 11:22
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13403

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