CSAFE research published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences recently received the distinction of a 2019 Noteworthy Article. “How Cross-Examination on Subjectivity and Bias Affects Jurors’ Evaluations of Forensic Science Evidence,” written by researcher Nicholas Scurich and William Thompson of the University of California, Irvine explores how contextual bias impacts the weight jurors give evidence presented in courtroom testimony. Readers can access the full text of this article through the end of March 2020. Congratulations to our team members on this honor!
Contextual bias has been widely discussed as a possible problem in forensic science. The trial simulation experiment reported here examined reactions of jurors at a county courthouse to cross‐examination and arguments about contextual bias in a hypothetical case. We varied whether the key prosecution witness (a forensic odontologist) was cross‐examined about the subjectivity of his interpretations and about his exposure to potentially biasing task‐irrelevant information. Jurors found the expert less credible and were less likely to convict when the expert admitted that his interpretation rested on subjective judgment, and when he admitted having been exposed to potentially biasing task‐irrelevant contextual information (relative to when these issues were not raised by the lawyers). The findings suggest, however, that forensic scientists can immunize themselves against such challenges and maximize the weight jurors give their evidence by adopting context management procedures that blind them to task‐irrelevant information.
Review all 2019 Noteworthy articles on the JFS website. Learn more about CSAFE’s work on objective, repeatable ways to identify and minimize human error in forensic science practices on our website.