Forensic Science in Court: Challenges in the Twenty First Century (Issues in Crime and Justice)

Forensic Science in Court: Challenges in the Twenty First Century (Issues in Crime and Justice)

Language: English

Pages: 196

ISBN: 1442201886

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Forensic Science in Court explores the legal implications of forensic science—an increasingly important and complex part of the justice system. Judge Donald Shelton provides an accessible overview of the legal aissues, from the history of evidence in court, to "gatekeeper" judges determining what evidence can be allowed, to the "CSI effect" in juries.

The book describes and evaluates various kinds of evidence, including DNA, fingerprints, handwriting, hair, bite marks, tool marks, firearms and bullets, fire and arson investigation, and bloodstain evidence. Assessing the strengths and limitations of each kind of evidence, the author also discusses how they can contribute to identifying the "who," "how," and "whether" questions that arise in criminal prosecutions.

Author Donald Shelton draws on the depth of his experiences as courtroom prosecutor, professor, and judge, to provide a well-rounded look at these increasingly critical issues. Case studies throughout help bring the issues to life and show how forensic science has been used, both successfully and not, in real-world situations.

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twenty-month-old Charles was kidnapped from the Lindbergh home and the case was quickly dubbed the “Crime of the Century.” Over two years later, a German immigrant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, was arrested. In a “media circus trial,” the likes of which would not be seen again until the O.J. Simpson trial, much of the prosecution case hinged on the testimony of experts in the fledgling forensic science field of handwriting comparison. On March 1, 1932, using a homemade ladder, someone climbed into

testified that his comparisons of the nondental forensic photo of the possible bite mark and dental molds taken from other potential suspects excluded them as having made the bite mark. The jury found Ege guilty of first-degree murder and she was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal to that court. On a further motion in the trial court, Ege maintained that the

also classify some features as “subclass characteristics” when they are common only to a small group of the manufactured items. The analysis then is the comparison of two sets of marks to see if they can be identified by common individual characteristics. The proffered basis for expert tool mark testimony is that each set of markings is somehow unique.2 Such testimony has been almost universally accepted.3 Testimony about a variety of tools has been admitted,4 including screwdrivers and

the legal standard of reasonable certainty that would aid the trier of fact. Indeed, such clinicians may be no more accurate than laypersons.28 Nevertheless, over the last twenty years, prosecutors have sought to present expert testimony concerning various “syndromes” of symptoms or characteristics that the government claims are typical of, or at least consistent with, the behavior of victims of certain crimes. Various syndromes have been offered, including child sexual abuse accommodation

into account in legal actions related to such evidence.31 The syndrome concept has a theoretical basis within the psychiatric parlance. The current American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders offers a general definition of syndrome as “a grouping of signs and symptoms, based on their frequent co-occurrence, that may suggest a common underlying pathogenesis, course, familial pattern, or treatment selection.”32 A syndrome is not necessarily a medical

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