The Shifted Paradigm: Forensic Sciences’s Overdue Evolution from Magic to Law

Chris Fabricant and Tucker Carrington have posted the above-titled article on SSRN.  Download here.  The abstract states:

A decade ago a controversial article in Science Magazine predicted a coming “paradigm shift” that would push forensic sciences toward fundamental change as the result of “[l]egal and scientific forces . . . converging to drive an emerging skepticism about the claims of the traditional forensic individualization sciences.” This article argues that the predicted paradigm shift has occurred. We support our thesis through a deconstruction of the jurisprudence of two of the forensic disciplines implicated in numerous wrongful convictions – forensic odontology (bite mark analysis) and forensic hair microscopy – and an examination of a confluence of unprecedented events currently altering the landscape of forensic sciences. The empirical evidence and data gathered here demonstrates that traditional forensic identification techniques, as well as the doctrines supporting them, are ultimately no more than a house of cards built on unvalidated hypotheses and unsubstantiated or non-existent data. Several very serious consequences result, among them that state, and to some extent federal, jurisprudence that stands for the proposition that this type of evidence is admissible is objectively erroneous and must be reevaluated and effectively rejected as valid precedent; and that the long-overdue paradigm shift presents a unique ethical challenge to criminal justice professionals, one that current professional ethics regimes fail to adequately capture, even though fundamental due process norms compel the conclusion that prosecutors, defense attorneys, forensic experts and their respective governing bodies have an ethical, moral and legal duty to revisit affected cases and provide remedies. Put differently, the “path forward” for forensic sciences that the National Academy of Sciences identified in its seminal 2009 report must have a rear-view mirror.

2 responses to “The Shifted Paradigm: Forensic Sciences’s Overdue Evolution from Magic to Law

  1. The conclusion of this “debate” is inescapable. True science will ultimately prevail. And while “science advances one funeral at a time,” “the truth will out.”

  2. Reblogged this on FORENSICS in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends and commented:
    A detailed and extensive look at why the US courts’ POV on the evolution of science must be reconstructed back to realities of scientific principles, not ‘res judicata” (i.e old cases). This attached legal treatise, THE SHIFTED PARADIGM: FORENSIC SCIENCE’S OVERDUE EVOLUTION FROM MAGIC TO LAW, is by Chris Fabricant & Tucker Carrington.

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