Led by Jennifer Friedman, Julia Leighton, Maneka Sinha, and Janis Puracal
Forensic “science” often plays a key role in criminal prosecutions. Because of the “CSI Effect” prosecutors seek out the forensic evidence jurors expect to hear. But how much science is at the foundation of the disciplines that were developed not in research or medical institutions but instead by law enforcement for the purpose of “solving crimes.”
To appreciate the limits and weaknesses of forensic evidence we must first understand the role of empirical testing, study design and peer review in establishing the scientific validity of a particular method or technique.
In this newly revised four-week course we will spend the first three weeks, using firearms and toolmark examination (FATM) as the example, developing the building blocks for effectively challenging the foundational validity of the discipline. We will learn how to evaluate the underlying research and how to argue for limiting the FATM examiner’s testimony to only that which is scientifically defensible. To that end, we will address:
- How to overcome the legal obstacles that exist in your jurisdiction.
- The AFTE Theory of Identification and it’s circular and subjective nature.
- What science demands and what the courts should embrace before admitting the result of an examination – empirical testing demonstrating the method’s performance, not the training and experience of the examiner.
- What counts as sound empirical testing and what does not.
- How to interpret the research data and what’s cheating and what isn’t.
You will learn that FATM examination has no meaningful standards, and has a higher error rate and greater inconsistency than previously understood.
In the fourth week we will focus on challenging the forensic examination in a specific case by assessing:
- Internal validation, proficiency testing and cognitive bias – is your lab doing it right?
- How to get the information you need through discovery and interviewing the examiner.
You will learn how to build an effective challenge to the forensic examination conducted in your case by demonstrating that the method was not validly applied in your case.