Expert Witness in the Legal System: A Scientist’s Search for Justice
Science in court: Courage of conviction
When your paper gets peer reviewed, you may face harsh criticism, but their arguments have to be scientific; their goal is not to invalidate your science, but to make sure it is rigorous. When the FDA examines your new drug, they go through everything with a fine-tooth comb, but their goal is to make sure the science is good. They have to establish that you will be able to think on your feet and keep yourself together when things get adversarial on the stand.
But if you can keep your cool and present the facts, you can really make a difference to a case, and that is what makes it truly worthwhile. I entered the scene when I was teaching an undergrad class at Virginia Tech.
Science in court: Courage of conviction : Nature : Nature Research
A man walked in, packing a weapon, with a bag handcuffed to his wrist. Can we talk alone?
- Read the full article now.
- Know Your Enemy.
- October 1964.
Do you have a secure place to keep this? They would like you to do an analysis of the ink and see if it could be the ink that Hughes regularly used. It turned out to be a very interesting case. An attendant in a gas station close to Las Vegas claims that early one morning he saw Howard Hughes in pajamas wandering around, looking for things related to nuclear bombs.
He was paranoid about those things. The gas station attendant, Melvin Earl Dummar, claimed Hughes befriended him and that Dummar took him back to his hotel.
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People thought he would leave most of the money to Stanford University and the Hughes Medical Center — maybe a few friends and family. It became known as the Mormon will. Of course, the whole story is bogus. The will had been forged at a much later date. Howard Hughes would never have been wandering around in his pajamas in the desert. So it was my job to analyze the ink and clear up any doubt.
Howard Hughes typically bought blue Paper Mate pens, maybe 1, for the year. Paper Mate originally bought the ink from DuPont — but just after the will had been written, Paper Mate decided to make its own.
Using HPLC, I discovered the Paper Mate ink had two pigments plus two impurities — impurities that did not appear until about — and that this was the ink in which the will was written. The ink on the document said — and so it could not be valid. I returned to Virginia Tech, performed the analysis, and the results were the same. The Mormon will had been written in or later.
Science in the Courts!
In what context was it issued? The moderator went on to say that experts bringing evidence to trials may gather their information in two ways. After-the-fact science has several virtues. It is relatively frugal, because the goal is clear and specific, and it is highly focused, so that the scientist can design the research to answer a specific question. Research that is sponsored to influence litigation, however, is regarded by the public and by segments of the research community with some cynicism.
The study drew a firestorm of attacks in the press when the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that one of the researchers had been paid as a consultant by four legal firms representing two manufacturers of breast implants. The publicity stimulated questions about whether sponsorship had compromised the integrity of the research. Workshop participants noted that even without evidence of bias, such controversies can pressure some research institutions to limit the funding contributions they will accept from industry, which often means that needed research is not carried out.
A corporate lawyer said that industry has many incentives to main-tain high standards of objectivity in the research it sponsors. Safety and good science are the friends of profit. In addition, she said, enforcing federal agencies such as the EPA or the FDA tend to monitor industry studies to ensure that they are designed properly to answer questions about safety and other pertinent issues. Another participant described how industry-sponsored drug tests for the Food and Drug Administration are performed.
Because the format of these double-blind, placebo-controlled studies is standardized and because the FDA is often involved in the design of the studies, the agency has built up sufficient expertise and experience to produce objective and reliable results. For example, companies are required to examine.
One participant pointed out that such a sweeping approach is virtually impossible to duplicate in a judicial setting.
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- Science in the Courtroom | Issues in Science and Technology.
- 1st Edition?
- Many scientists take a dim view of the court system—until they take part in it.
- Spielen: Roman (Das autobiographische Projekt 3) (German Edition).
One participant discussed the difficulty in finding objective information about toxic chemicals. Few organizations or individuals can afford to do independent studies of human populations exposed to low levels of the thousands of chemicals that are potentially toxic, so there is little independent information in the literature.
The need to know more about such chemicals usually arises in reaction to a lawsuit in which an expert, perhaps using animal studies or workplace studies, begins to formulate opinions. If it did, then the expert witness for the industry ought to be able to be excluded for the same reason. Under present rules, the workshop participants were told, the opposing party has no discovery rights to reveal what parts of a particular study are being reported and what parts are not being reported.
Even though he accepted funding from litigants for research on several specific questions, he felt that his work was impartial, his results interesting, and his testimony consequential as evidence. He did learn that scientific research. Companies do perform some pre-production testing on many chemicals in an effort to avoid future product liability or federal regulation. Where a development in forensic science is used in court, information that goes to the reliability of the technical or scientific method used must be put into the public domain and made available to all.
That is because, in relation to the use of such science in criminal justice, commercial considerations of a kind which might ordinarily be applicable must take second place to the provision of all material which is relevant to establishing innocence or proving guilt. Topics Trial by jury. UK criminal justice Forensic science Judiciary comment. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations.
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