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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
to be diluted or distorted, … courts will increasingly appreciate its power and flexibility to evaluate proffered expert testimony.”91 However, at least with respect to criminal cases, this may reflect an unrealistic assessment of the problem. “The principal difficulty, it appears, is that many [forensic science] techniques have been relied on for so long that courts might be reluctant to rethink their role in the trial process…. In many forensic areas, effectively no research exists to support the practice.”92
As the discussion in this chapter indicates, the adversarial process relating to the admission and exclusion of scientific evidence is not suited to the task of finding “scientific truth.” The judicial system is encumbered by, among other things, judges and lawyers who generally lack the scientific expertise necessary to comprehend and evaluate forensic evidence in an informed manner, trial judges (sitting alone) who must decide evidentiary issues without the benefit of judicial colleagues and often with little time for extensive research and reflection, and the highly deferential nature of the appellate review afforded trial courts’ Daubert rulings. Furthermore, the judicial system embodies a case-by-case adjudicatory approach that is not well suited to address the systematic problems in many of the various forensic science disciplines. Given these realities, there is a tremendous need for the forensic science community to improve. Judicial review, by itself, will not cure the infirmities of the forensic science community.93 The development of scientific research, training, technology, and databases associated with DNA analysis have resulted from substantial and steady federal support for both academic research and programs employing techniques for DNA analysis. Similar support must be given to all credible forensic science disciplines if they are to achieve the degrees of reliability needed to serve the goals of justice. With more and better educational programs, accredited laboratories, certified forensic practitioners, sound operational principles and procedures, and serious research to establish the limits and measures of performance in each discipline, forensic science experts will be better able to analyze evidence and coherently report their findings in the courts. The present situation, however, is seriously wanting, both because of the limitations of the judicial system and because of the many problems faced by the forensic science community.
1 Faigman et al., op. cit., supra note 1, § 1:1, p. 5 n. 9.
Ibid. § 1:30, p. 85 (footnotes omitted).
See J.L. Mnookin. Expert evidence, partisanship, and epistemic competence. 73 BROOK. L. REV. 1009, 1033 (2008) (“[S]o long as we have our adversarial system in much its present form, we are inevitably going to be stuck with approaches to expert evidence that are imperfect, conceptually unsatisfying, and awkward. It may well be that the real lesson is this: those who believe that we might ever fully resolve—rather than imperfectly manage—the deep structural tensions surrounding both partisanship and epistemic competence that permeate the use of scientific evidence within our legal system are almost certainly destined for disappointment.”).