Was that bullet really fired by that gun? Was that print probably made by that finger? How do we interpret forensic evidence, in a world that is not like CSI shows, and where data can be lacking? How do we explain these types of evidence to lawyers and jurors in criminal cases?
CSAFE and the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law are sponsoring a one-day conference on Monday, March 26, 2018 at the University of Virginia School of Law to examine these crucial questions. The event will bring together leading judges, lawyers, statisticians and crime lab directors in an effort to bridge the crime lab and the courtroom. The event is free and open to the public. For individuals unable to attend in-person, we encouarge you to participate via live stream.
Sue Ballou, the president-elect of the American Academy of Forensic Science, and Peter Neufeld, the founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, will introduce the conference. Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will deliver the keynote at noon, addressing the role of judges as gatekeepers. Retired federal district judge Nancy Gertner will conclude the conference.
Panel discussions will include how we can develop better forensic evidence, how we can analyze it more accurately in the crime lab, and how we can present it more effectively in criminal cases. Several contributions will be published in a special symposium issue of the Virginia Journal of Criminal Law.
The conference marks the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., which reshaped how judges evaluate scientific and expert evidence. That ruling coincided with a surge in scientific research relevant to criminal cases, including the development of modern DNA testing that both exonerated hundreds of individuals and provided more accurate evidence of guilt.
“At the same time, leading scientific commissions have pointed out real shortcomings in the use of forensic evidence in the courtroom,” said Brandon Garrett, CSAFE researcher and White Burkett Miller Professor of Law, Public Affairs Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at University of Virginia School of Law who will participate in the conference. “The CSAFE collaboration, extending across four universities, including UVA, has been working with generous support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to research these questions.”
A list of additional CSAFE sponsored events and other relevant forensic science conferences can be found on our Events Page.