Witness – Forensic Science and it’s ‘EXPERTISE’ in Court in Canada
We want to believe that the new science and computer toys they use in law enforcement are our best friends, that they will prove innocence beyond doubt. But they don’t. Because no matter which tool you use, there is still a human driving it, with all their prejudices and bad days, with varied education and aptitude make for something that is actually still on shaky ground. It’s not like TV and movies show us at all. It won’t do more than hazard an educated guess. It’s still a tool that is only as good as the programmer and the reader.
And people have been wrongfully convicted because of forensic science. The thing that was supposed to stop that very thing from happening.
If that is true, and it is, then how can courts ethically use this when the stakes are so high?
Yeah most criminals say they’re innocent, but ya know what? Some of them really might be. And the system is SUPPOSED to be fair and just. (No I’m NOT being Pollyanna when I say that!)
Properly qualified and admissible expert testimony can be powerful evidence. It can identify a potential suspect to the exclusion of all others. It is a significant assistance to the trier of fact in appreciating specific facts and circumstances in a prosecution that are outside of its general knowledge and understanding. On the other hand, tainted, tailored and unsubstantiated expert evidence, couched in scientific terms and language, based on unreliable fact and ultimately debunked science has long been recognized as a leading cause of wrongful convictions. govt of Canada
Forensic science isn’t all that and a bag of chips. JHS of Canada
[They] must understand that their role as experts in the criminal justice system is to provide the police, the Crown, the defence, and the court with a reasonable and balanced opinion, and to remain independent in doing so. The expert cannot become a partisan.”
The trial judge’s role as gatekeeper has been a part of Canadian jurisprudence for years. Perhaps the scrutiny necessary to perform that function has effectively diminished because of the belief that forensic evidence, like all other evidence, will be accorded the appropriate weight at the end of the day. As a result, in many cases forensic evidence and expert testimony has not been scrutinized to the level expected before the evidence is heard by the trier(s) of fact. ppsc
new theories, methods and techniques are developed every day, and understanding how these change forensic science presents unique challenges and opportunities. We are mindful that these new developments are as challenging to lawyers and judges as they are to the scientific community. CSI fields