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Date:  Sept. 28, 2011

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


REFERENCE MANUAL ON SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR JUDGES UPDATED; NEW CHAPTERS INCLUDE NEUROSCIENCE, MENTAL HEALTH, AND FORENSIC SCIENCE


WASHINGTON
– The National Research Council today released the third edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence.  Developed to guide judges as they encounter scientific evidence at trials, it replaces an edition published in 2000 and includes new chapters on areas such as neuroscience, mental health, and forensic science.  The new manual was developed in collaboration with the Federal Judicial Center, which produced the previous editions, and was rigorously peer-reviewed in accordance with the procedures of the National Research Council.

 

"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 New York and the Starr Foundation.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.  The Federal Judicial Center is the education and research agency of the federal judiciary.  For more information, visit http://www.fjc.govA committee roster follows.

 

Contacts: 

Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer

Luwam Yeibio, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

 

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 Policy and Global Affairs

Committee on Science, Technology, and Law

Committee on Science for Judges -- Development of the Third Edition of the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Phase II

Jerome P. Kassirer (co-chair) *
Distinguished Professor
School of Medicine
Tufts University
Wellesley, Mass.

Gladys Kessler (co-chair)
Judge
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Washington

Ming Chin
Associate Justice
Supreme Court of California
San Francisco

Pauline Newman
Judge
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Washington, D.C.

Kathleen O'Malley
Judge
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Washington, D.C.

Jed S. Rakoff
Judge
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
New York City

Channing R. Robertson
Professor Emeritus;
Ruth G. and William K. Bowes Professor; and
Yumi Yasunori Kaneko Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education
Department of Chemical Engineering
School of Engineering
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

Joseph V. Rodricks
Principal
ENVIRON
Arlington, Va.

Allen J. Wilcox
Senior Investigator
Epidemiology Branch
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Sandy L. Zabell
Professor of Statistics and Mathematics
Department of Mathematics
Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.


RESEARCH COUNCIL
STAFF

 
Anne-Marie Mazza

Study Director

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* Member, Institute of Medicine