September 18, 2011

Free access to forensic articles

The Journal of Forensic Sciences, published by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, is offering free access to select articles, including several of potential interest to this blog’s audience. Click on any of the below titles to read (and/or download) the full article.

By Janne A. Holmgren and Judith Fordham 

Abstract:  Television shows, such as CBS's CSI and its spin-offs CSI: Miami; CSI: Las Vegas; and CSI: New York, have sparked the imagination of thousands of viewers who want to become forensic scientists. The shows' fictional portrayals of crime scene investigations have prompted fears that jurors will demand DNA and other forensic evidence before they will convict, and have unrealistic expectations of that evidence. This has been dubbed the "CSI effect." This phenomenon was explored using results from a Canadian study based on 605 surveys of Canadian college students who would be considered jury-eligible and Australian quantitative and qualitative findings from a study that surveyed and interviewed real posttrial jurors. Information about the way jurors deal with forensic evidence in the context of other evidence and feedback about the way in which understanding such evidence could be increased were gained from both these studies. The comparison provides insights into the knowledge base of jurors, permitting adaptation of methods of presenting forensic information by lawyers and experts in court, based on evidence rather than folklore. While the Canadian juror data showed statistically significant findings that jurors are clearly influenced in their treatment of some forensic evidence by their television-viewing habits, reassuringly, no support was found in either study for the operation of a detrimental CSI effect as defined above. In the Australian study, in fact, support was found for the proposition that jurors assess forensic evidence in a balanced and thoughtful manner.

by Lisa L. Smith, Ray Bull and Robyn Holliday 

Abstract:  The most widely accepted model of juror decision making acknowledges the importance of both the case-specific information presented in the courtroom, as well as the prior general knowledge and beliefs held by each juror. The studies presented in this paper investigated whether mock jurors could differentiate between evidence of varying strengths in the absence of case information and then followed on to determine the influence that case context (and therefore the story model) has on judgments made about the strength of forensic DNA evidence. The results illustrated that mock jurors correctly identified various strengths of evidence when it was not presented with case information; however, the perceived strength of evidence was significantly inflated when presented in the context of a criminal case, particularly when the evidence was of a weak or ambiguous standard. These findings are discussed in relation to the story model, and the potential implications for real juries.

Forensic Identification Science Evidence Since Daubert: Part II—Judicial Reasoning in Decisions to Exclude Forensic Identification Evidence on Grounds of Reliability

by Mark Page, Jane Taylor and Matt Blenkin 

Abstract:  Many studies regarding the legal status of forensic science have relied on the U.S. Supreme Court's mandate in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., and its progeny in order to make subsequent recommendations or rebuttals. This paper focuses on a more pragmatic approach to analyzing forensic science’s immediate deficiencies by considering a qualitative analysis of actual judicial reasoning where forensic identification evidence has been excluded on reliability grounds since the Daubert precedent. Reliance on general acceptance is becoming insufficient as proof of the admissibility of forensic evidence. The citation of unfounded statistics, error rates and certainties, a failure to document the analytical process or follow standardized procedures, and the existence of observe bias represent some of the concerns that have lead to the exclusion or limitation of forensic identification evidence. Analysis of these reasons may serve to refocus forensic practitioners’ testimony, resources, and research toward rectifying shortfalls in these areas.

Additional free articles from the Journal of Forensic Sciences on a variety of forensic topics may be found HERE.

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