July 01, 2015

Scientific Evidence Resources on the Web

By Carol Henderson and Diana Botluk

There is no ignoring the impact of scientific evidence in the legal system today. New developments in science and technology are advancing at a rapid pace. These include digital and multimedia sciences, canine scent detection, touch DNA, and others. Judges, attorneys, scientists, and law enforcement personnel need to keep abreast of the scientific advances, as well as changes in the rules of evidence. There has also been much discussion about increasing juror expectations regarding such evidence (the so-called CSI effect).1 The judge who turns a blind eye to these advances and expectations does so at his or her own peril and to the detriment of the justice system. Judges must be aware of the ethical implications regarding errant experts and attorneys’ duties to verify their experts’ credentials and challenge those of the opposing party.2

Congress recognized the importance of scientific evidence to the legal system and called for the creation of an independent forensic science committee at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to identify the needs of the forensic science community, including assessing present and future resource needs of labs, the medical examiner, and coroner offices; identifying potential scientific advances that will assist law enforcement in using forensic technologies; and determining how to disseminate best practices and guidelines to ensure quality and consistency in the use of technologies and techniques. This effort resulted in a report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.3

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