This paper considers how American courts have responded to developments in forensic science by focusing on four popular forensic science disciplines: (1) fingerprint identification (friction ridge analysis); (2) firearms identification (tool-mark analysis); (3) bite mark identification (forensic odontology); and (4) arson investigation (fire science). Part I briefly explores the relationship between law and science. Part II charts the development of the legal frameworks that govern the admissibility of expert evidence in America. Part III discusses the identification methods employed by these four disciplines and provides examples of erroneous identifications. Part IV comments on the NAS Report findings that relate to these four disciplines. Part V critically surveys responses by criminal courts between 1999 and 2011 to various admissibility challenges raised with respect to these four disciplines. Part VI concludes that over recent years the fingerprint identification, firearms identification, bite mark identification, and arson investigation communities have attempted to improve the reliability of their disciplines, but have failed to use identification methods with solid scientific underpinnings.
Recommended CitationSarah Lucy Cooper, The Collision of Law and Science: American Court Responses to Developments in Forensic Science, 33 Pace L. Rev. 234 (2013)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/plr/vol33/iss1/6