Thursday, October 20, 2011
From Grits for Breakfast:
Recently, thanks to contributions from readers, Grits purchased a copy of the brand spanking new third edition of the "Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence" produced by the Federal Judicial Center and the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science - the first update of the manual in more than a decade . . . .
As with other comparative forensic techniques from fingerprints to bitemarks to microscopic hair examination, essentially, all ballistics experts are really saying is "After looking at them closely, I think these two things look alike." It strikes this writer that it's quite a big leap from "reasonable scientific certainty" to "more likely than not." Basically it's the leap from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to having "substantial doubt." I wonder how many past convictions hinged on testimony where experts used phrases like "reasonable scientific certainty" or "to the exclusion of all other firearms in the world"? And I wonder how many times those experts were simply wrong?