CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cole on Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions

Simon A. Cole (University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society) has posted Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions: From Exposer to Contributor to Corrector (New England Law Review, Vol. 46, No. 4, 2012) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Brandon Garrett’s book, Convicting the Innocent, makes a number of important contributions to the scholarly and public discourse on miscarriages of justice. In this essay, I will focus on the contribution that is most related to my own research interests: its contribution to our understanding of the relationship between forensic science and miscarriages of justice. I will first endeavor to place Garrett’s contribution in historical context by briefly tracing the history of discussions about forensic science and wrongful convictions. I will then highlight in what way Garrett’s work has furthered our understanding. I will then discuss some of the criticisms of Garrett’s work by advocates of forensic science and try to explain how data limitations contribute to the difference of opinion between Garrett and his critics. I will conclude by suggesting a different, more theoretically grounded way of conceptualizing miscarriages of justice that might help us move beyond these differences of opinion. Ultimately, however, my suggestions will be highly speculative: data limitations, again, will make it difficult to make any strong empirical inferences about the relationship between forensic science and wrongful convictions.

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Cole's piece will undoubtedly be very interesting. I made extensive use of Professor Cole's 2005 article about error in fingerprint identification in my own forthcoming book, "Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science" (NYU Press, Sept. 2012), and so I know that this will be a sharp, well-done review of the Garrett book. I'm looking forward to reading it.
David Harris, U. Pittsburgh School of Law

Posted by: David Harris | Jul 31, 2012 6:03:56 PM

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