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Examining the Evidence

History and A Path Forward

Science & Law > History and A Path Forward
There are scores of talented and dedicated people in the forensic science community, and the work that they perform is vitally important. They are often strapped in their work, however, for lack of adequate resources, sound policies, and national support.

The Historical Background

In 2005, the US Congress authorized the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the field of forensic science.

A report commissioned by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science and Medicine was released in 2009, entitled, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. It recognized the fact that, at its best, forensic science provides vital evidence toward the conviction of criminals and the exoneration of the innocent. The report also brought to light pronounced weaknesses in the forensic sciences, and the harm inflicted by a significant amount of unreliable forensic evidence being presented—and trusted—in the adjudication of cases.

The report also called for the development of programs to help legal professionals get a better grasp of forensic science and its limitations. Judges, in their capacity as “gatekeepers” of admissibility (under Daubert), and attorneys, in their role as adversarial litigants, need a greater understanding of how to support, challenge, recognize and weigh scientific evidence.

Delve deeper into understanding the challenges facing forensic science, and the admissibility standards that guide judges in the decision-making process in the next section. Also consider the implications of the Confrontation Clause on laboratories and analysts themselves.