Date: Sept. 28, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFERENCE MANUAL ON SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR JUDGES UPDATED; NEW CHAPTERS INCLUDE NEUROSCIENCE, MENTAL HEALTH, AND FORENSIC SCIENCE
"This manual seeks to open legal institutional channels through which science -- its learning, tools, and principles -- may flow more easily and thereby better inform the law," wrote U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer in the introduction to the manual. "The manual represents one part of a joint scientific-legal effort that will further the interests of truth and justice alike."
Since the 1993 Supreme Court case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, judges have served as "gatekeepers" in determining whether expert testimony is based on sound scientific reasoning and methodology. The reference manual is intended to assist judges with the management of cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence; it is not intended, however, to instruct judges on what evidence should be admissible.
"In order to fulfill our responsibility as gatekeepers, judges must now have a basic understanding of the complexities of modern science, including scientific reasoning, principles, and procedures," said Gladys Kessler, a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and co-chair of the committee that oversaw production of the manual. "Our ultimate goal, of course, is to help juries render verdicts that are based on scientifically sound expert testimony."
Scientific advances continually introduce new fields, tests, and approaches in the courtroom. For example, the manual notes how DNA technology has called into question many earlier convictions, which has resulted in the re-examination of several time-worn forensic science techniques such as bullet matching and fingerprint identification. "The report's new chapters should provide an important tool for assessing evidence in several rapidly advancing fields," said committee co-chair Jerome P. Kassirer, Distinguished Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine.
Chapters on topics such as epidemiology, statistics, and engineering have been updated or reshaped. Each provides an overview of principles and methods of the science from which legal evidence is typically derived and examples of cases in which such evidence was presented.
The manual was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of
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Copies of Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Third Edition are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).
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NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Poli
Committee on Science, Technology, and Law
Committee on S
Jerome P. Kassirer (
Supreme Court of
Jed S. Rakoff
Channing R. Robertson
Ruth G. and William K. Bowes Professor; and
Department of Chemi
Joseph V. Rodricks
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Sandy L. Zabell
Professor of Statistics and Mathematics
Department of Mathematics
RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF