Forensic Science Identification Evidence: Tensions Between Law and Science

Cooper, Sarah Lucy (2016) Forensic Science Identification Evidence: Tensions Between Law and Science. Journal of Philosophy, Science and Law, 16. pp. 1-35.

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For decades, courtrooms around the world have admitted evidence from forensic science analysts, such as fingerprint, tool-mark and bite-mark examiners, in order to solve crimes. Scientific progress, however, has led to significant criticism of the ability of such disciplines to engage in individualization i.e., “match” suspects exclusively to evidence. Despite this, American courts largely reject legal challenges based on arguments that identification evidence provided by these forensic science disciplines is unreliable. In so holding, these courts affirm precedent that it is the adversarial system’s function to weed out frailties in forensic evidence, and find that criticism of the forensic sciences lacks sui generis qualities. This article provides an independent critique of relevant American case law, from which three themes emerge. These themes are (1) the law’s misuse of science; (2) law’s scepticism towards change; and (3) law’s narrow construction of rationality, which generates reductionist concepts, and divorces science from its social context. As such, this article shows how the American judiciary’s approach to this global issue provides a contemporary illustration of key institutional tensions between science and law, and offers some recommendations for reforms that aim to facilitate the legal process to utilize the most reliable forensic science evidence possible.

Item Type: Article
14 April 2016Published
4 March 2016Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: forensic, law, science, evidence
Subjects: CAH16 - law > CAH16-01 - law > CAH16-01-01 - law
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Law
Depositing User: Users 18 not found.
Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2016 12:04
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 15:55

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