Edmond and Vuille : Comparing the Use of Forensic Science Evidence in Australia, Switzerland, and the U.S.

Gary Edmond and Joëlle Vuille have published Comparing the Use of Forensic Science Evidence in Australia, Switzerland, and the United States: Transcending the Adversarial-Nonadversarial Dichotomy, Jurimetrics Journal, 54, 221–276 (2014).

Here is the abstract:

This article compares responses to incriminating expert evidence (that is, forensic science) in Australia, Switzerland, and the United States. It begins with an outline of the three systems. Then, drawing on recent reviews of the forensic sciences, it explains that many of the forensic sciences have not been formally evaluated—that is, never subjected to validation studies. This means that in many cases we do not know if techniques work, nor how well. It also means that standards, claims about proficiency and experience, as well as the expressions used by analysts are not empirically based. These critical findings from a range of peak scientific organizations and commissions of inquiry (for example, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Institute of Standards and Technology) are then used to illuminate the impact of rules, procedures, and the performance of personnel (such as forensic scientists, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges) across our three jurisdictions. The article explains how three different criminal justice systems each failed to identify or credibly respond to deep structural and endemic problems with many types of forensic science and medicine evidence routinely used by investigators and prosecutors. Serious problems with forensic science techniques and derivative evidence are rarely identified, let alone explained and conveyed in ordinary criminal proceedings. Indeed, there is very limited evidence that lawyers and judges are conversant with emerging critiques or the corrosive impact of speculative expert evidence on criminal proof. The article endeavors to understand these failures and the weakness of processes and safeguards across advanced criminal justice systems that include adversarial and nonadversarial elements. It also considers why many of the problems were initially identified in the United States, although not necessarily in courts, and what might be done in each of these jurisdictions to improve awareness and enhance legal responses to weak and speculative forms of incriminating expert evidence.

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