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Scientific Evidence - Conclusion

expert testimony forensic eyewitness

Scientific evidence is often superior to other types of evidence, such as eyewitness identifications and confessions. The Justice Department report of twenty-eight convicts released from prison during the 1990s due to exculpatory DNA evidence dramatizes this point. Most of these convictions were based on eyewitness identifications. One involved a mentally limited defendant who falsely confessed and then pled guilty to avoid the death penalty.

However, if the introduction of expert testimony is to enhance the fact-finding process, the courts must separate the wheat from the chaff. Forensic science is being scrutinized as never before. The "junk science" debate emanating from the civil docket is having a spillover effect on criminal litigation. The Supreme Court in Dau- bert and Kumho affirmed its determination to improve the quality of expert testimony in federal trials. In Kumho, the Court declared that the "objective of [Daubert's gatekeeping] requirement is to ensure the reliability and relevancy of expert testimony. It is to make certain that an expert, whether basing testimony upon professional studies or personal experience, employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field" (526 U.S. at 152). One of the benefits of the DNA litigation is that these cases set high standards for the evaluation of scientific proof. Finally, Zain and similar misconduct cases have further fueled the drive for crime laboratory accreditation, examiner certification, and the standardization of forensic procedures.

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