The Rules… place appropriate limits on the admissibility of purportedly scientific evidence by assigning to the trial judge the task of ensuring that an expert’s testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.
The dynamic march forward of scientific discovery can trigger disparate, impassioned opinions among forensic scientists regarding the viability of emerging tests and techniques. Add to the mix the adversarial nature of attorneys championing their own reliable evidence, while challenging what they label the other side’s “junk science”, and it’s easy to understand the need for admissibility standards to guide a judge in the decision-making process.
That being said, what should those standards be?
Admissibility guidelines have changed over time, and currently vary from state to state. Tracking the deliberations through history on a national scale can be illustrative for attorneys and judges grappling with today’s questions of Good Science v. Bad Science.
In the next section, learn more about the history of admissibility and why states vary in the standards they use. Then consider why judges play such a crucial role as gatekeepers to admissibility in the courtroom and what questions should be asked about evidence and the expert presenting it.