Unformatted text preview: Science and the Law
201 Shared Project Science and the Law share projects in truth-finding Use of specialized information from skilled persons common place in English courts by fourteenth century Rules governing admissibility of expert evidence established in eighteenth century By 1909 60% of cases in Massachusetts superior court used some form of specialized testimony Technology related law suits since the 1960s (e.g. asbestos and breast implants) have led to ever greater role for technical experts Some fields of expertise the Courts call upon Psychiatry, sociology, statistics, geology, epidemiology, toxicology, linguistics, engineers, economists, physicians, forensic scientists, molecular biology, and even philosophy and sociology of science Expert witnesses can earn big bucks Manhattan Psychiatrist and neurologist $200,000 Fees typically range from $50 per hour for law enforcement work to $10,000 a day for a plastic surgeon. Clearinghouses - Expert Witness Network and Technical Advisory Service for Attorneys Witnesses tend to gain a reputation for their persuasiveness. Settlements can be huge e.g $58 million for railway workers and dioxin in 1982 Since the average American juror has no better than high school science the examining of witnesses in courtroom directed mostly at translating or repackaging highly technical information. On occasions scientific information is challenged and debunked as part of adversarial cross examination The goal of cross examination The goal in cross-examination is to expose the contingencies of the offering party's evidence, thus undercutting its claim to credibility. Science is a doubleedged resource in this process it can be used to diminish the credibility of witnesses or a defendant or can itself come under deconstruction. The adversarial process makes legal forum very different to scientific forums strategic goals of lawyers sit uneasily with people trained to think as impartial observers Court appearances can weaken professional reputations and the field as a whole Legal proceedings involving matters of science can stimulate new scientific research, e.g. impact of silicon gel breast implants on the immune system Rise of so-called "Junk Science" real scientific expertise versus pseudo-science Sociology of Science Applies in Legal Cases The social aspects of scientific claims become evident as scientific claims come under examination in a legal setting. e.g. interpretative flexibility appears, black box can be opened, boundary work between "good" and "bad" work drawn. Coextensive with this process is again the battle for credibility and trust. An expert witness's knowledge, demeanor, personality, interests and rhetorical skills can all be important factors In legal setting personal credibility may be more crucial as courts find it harder to assess true state of play in the technical field Judge decides in advance whether expert witness has right credentials to testify. Frye Rule 1923 Has the claim "gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs"? Daubert 1993 Has the claim been: (1) tested and falsifiable, (2) peer reviewed and published, (3) generated by a technique with a high error rate, (4) gained general acceptance? Daubert seems to be leading to less expert witnesses being called...
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- Spring '06
- Evidence law, Expert witness