This seminar will explore the tenuous but necessary relationship between forensic science and the law. Science, by its very nature, must constantly evolve, expand, and change. The law, on the other hand, places great value in consistency, predictability, and finality. After some background on this tension, we will focus on the various legal frameworks for vetting, admitting and repudiating the forensic testimony presented in court. The seminar will also include a survey of specific types of forensic science such as fingerprinting, DNA testing, ballistics, fire investigation and forensic pathology. Included in this survey will be an analysis of the general limitations of forensic science, exploring how science can be abused, overstated, falsified, and subject to cognitive bias. The course will examine the effect of scientific evidence on juries, and more broadly on the goal of achieving fair and just outcomes. Finally, we will discuss ways of undoing the damage caused by faulty science and ideas for future reforms.
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