Policy ForumScience and the Law

Is Science Different for Lawyers?

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Science  19 Jul 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5580, pp. 339-340
DOI: 10.1126/science.1072515

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Courts are obligated to evaluate the basis for proffered expert opinion to determine whether it is reliable and valid. This gate-keeping requirement compels them to review a wide variety of expertises, from auto mechanics to physicists. Increasingly, in the area of forensic science in particular, courts have begun to question whether the scientific method ought to be the touchstone by which they examine expert opinions, because doing so would appear to require the exclusion of evidence, such as fingerprinting, that is a staple of the trial process. In this Policy Forum, D. L. Faigman argues that the scientific method should be the touchstone by which all experts are judged. Scientists can be instrumental in assisting courts in the admittedly difficult task of evaluating the wide range of experts and expertises that make their way into court.