Forensic Testimony: New text book on ethical practices vs. wrongful convictions

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Expert witness books tend to be dry and strictly formulative in style. Most provide lists of evidence rules (in mind-numbing legalese) and tips about being clever and convincing in court. You won’t find much of that in Forensic Testimony: Science, Law and Forensic Evidence.

This book focuses on the responsibilities of witnesses going into courts to speak on their forensic technical expertise and analyses.Forensic Testimony does have a broad view of legal terms and vocabulary available as a glossary, but each of the 12 chapters take on the hard subjects present in today’s cases, courtrooms, and news media. Information regarding “junk” versus “established or validated” forensic subjects. These topics are sharply discussed and cover subjects such as forensic fraud, forensic negligence, and incompetence. So expect the “good” with the “bad” as this book shows why the NAS 2009 report of “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States” has been singularly ignored by most forensic practitioner groups. This is a true failure of effect never seen in the history of the National Research Council researchers of the NAS (formed in 1916 to provide independent scientific advice for the US government). Full documentation of failures of individual experts and some less than scientifically validated forensics are compared to proper conduct, attitude and presentation of actual “scientific data” versus personal opinion. The fallacy in forensic circles that “it’s not real science but we still do good work” is thrown against cases of criminal exonerations after erroneous convictions aided by misguided forensic experts and their “court-accepted” but “not so validated” methods.

In closing, Forensic Testimony should be an eye-opener for students studying criminal justice and forensic science. The old-guard forensic experts (and their progeny) are well described as they continue to preach their self-righteous claims of 100% accuracy and service to their communities as a substitute for proper validation. Prosecution lawyers and their opponents in the Criminal Defense bar will learn about how wrongful convictions are occurring throughout the US justice system when bad forensics or overreaching forensic experts participate in courts. Judges interested in education and legal research should find the book stimulating with its content of case-based critique of expert witnesses calling themselves “scientists” but lacking a grasp of the scientific method as support.

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in criminal justice, expert testimony and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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