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Lecture 4

Lecture 4 – New Paradigm in Forensic Science

Course Code
ANTH 2235A/B
Eldon Molto

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Lecture 4 New Paradigm in Forensic Science
Two Key Developments Wedded
o 1. New standards for the admissibility of scientific evidence in courts
o 2. Scientific foundation and power of DNA
Challenges to Traditional Forensic Individuation Arising from DNA
o Moving from non-science to science
o 1. Discovery of erroneous convictions (note that fingerprints cannot
be used in exonerations)
o 2. Models for scientifically sound identification science (genetic theory
and statistics
o 3. Momentous change in admissibility standards for expert witness
testimony (Daubert)
o 4. Analysis of error rates across the forensic sciences (proficiency
o No longer can an expert witness rest on their laurels as a scientist.
Must have forensic relevance and training (e.g. Smith was a trained
pathologist but was a terrible forensic pathologist!)
Daubert Ruling Criteria, 1993
o 1. Theory or technique used by expert can be or has been tested
o 2. Theory or technique subjected to peer review and publication
o 3. The known or potential error rate of the method used must be
o 4. The degree of the method’s or conclusion’s acceptance within the
relevant scientific community must be noted (new techniques
admissibility must be established by a voir dire hearing)
Canadian Standard: The Mohan Ruling
o 1. Relevance
o 2. Necessity in establishing the trier of fact
o 3. The absence of any exclusionary rule
o 4. Qualifications of the expert including statistical expertise
Impact of DNA
o Established scientific theoretical and empirical (testing) foundations
based on Mendel’s Laws and the Hardy Weinberg theorem; challenge
the concept of discernible uniqueness
o DNA has a statistical model based on population genetics to determine
the probability of a match) inclusion
o These matches are based on well structured databases
o Crime scene investigations have increased in significance
o Because of DNAs power crime scene contexts must be better
established. This has resulted in the increased importance of forensic