PCAST: Much to consider about forensic certainties largely beyond police training

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The instantaneous rejection of the latest Executive Office’s forensic review revealed much about the deniers.

This discussion on likelihoods of forensic success or failure from the ‘Einstein Institute’ leads me to wonder if the US cohorts of lawyers: DAs, Attorney Generals, and other US pattern-lookers really have the discerning, training and motivation for any of this.

It really about preventing “subjective” testimony leading to wrongful convictions. Be forewarned, as a good portion of this has a distinctive European origin. Note: Here is AFSP (UK) and ENFSI (EuroZone).

One proposal is to assign probabilities based on experience and subjective judgement. This appears to be advocated in the Association of Forensic Science Providers (AFSP) 2009 standards, and the 2015 European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) guideline on evaluative reporting. But the warrant for such subjective judgements has been questioned. The 1993 US Supreme Court Daubert ruling and the 2016 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) argue strongly that subjective judgment is not enough, that empirical validation is needed.

If a forensic likelihood ratio is to be based on subjective judgement, it has been proposed that the judgement be empirically calibrated.

Read the discussion’s reasoning and alternative choices. I’m sure it will be thought-provoking.


About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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