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WIREs Forensic Sci

Interpretation continues to be the main weakness in criminal justice systems: Developing roles of the expert witness and court

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Interpretation of evidence continues to be the most difficult challenge that faces scientists, lawyers and judges. Despite advances, introduction into mainstream forensic science has been slow. Probabilistic software used to analyze complex DNA mixtures is gradually being implemented. With this software, allele probability databases are used to help calculate strength of evidence. Standardization is facilitated by software and databases, combined with training courses to teach the approach. This is the definition of the “knowledge‐base.” There is increasing interest in reporting at “activity level.” If the opinion is not based upon data, then it is subjective, especially if it is based purely upon personal experience. The aim must be to increase the objectivity of reporting to a similar standard to that currently used for mixture interpretation (with probabilistic software). To do this, a similar approach is required—construction of software and databases. However, compared to allele probability databases, there are currently no formalized collections that are available for scientists to use. Experimental designs are complex and require much more thought and effort. Consequently, knowledge‐bases to inform activity‐level propositions are poorly developed. It is important that courts focus on limitations of knowledge‐bases, otherwise miscarriages of justice may result, such as the Sally Clark case. It is important that courts develop as a forum that ensures that the consensus view prevails, and relies upon data‐informed opinion rather than opinion based upon experience. Relevant well‐informed defense commissioned experts are required as part of the system of checks and balances. This article is categorized under: Forensic Biology > Interpretation of Biological Evidence Jurisprudence and Regulatory Oversight > Communication Across Science and Law Forensic Biology > DNA Databases and Biometrics
In presenting evidence, scientists strive to be impartial by utilizing knowledge‐bases, data and methods that can be demonstrated to represent a consensus view. Objectivity is demonstrably bias‐free, whereas subjectivity is the converse. The reality of reporting is somewhere between these two extremes
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Forensic Biology > DNA Databases and Biometrics
Jurisprudence and Regulatory Oversight > Communication Across Science and Law
Forensic Biology > Interpretation of Biological Evidence

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