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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
tent with regard to statistical evidence.55 Interestingly, juries are often hesitant to give as much credence as experts suggest to the statistics associated with DNA evidence.56 Juries frequently raise concerns about laboratory error and sample contamination, even when opposing counsel does not introduce such issues.57
Jurors’ use and comprehension of forensic evidence is not well studied. Better understanding is needed in this area, and recommendations are needed for programs or methods that will better prepare juries in appropriate, unbiased ways for trials in which scientific evidence is expected to play a large or pivotal role. However, several studies indicate that trial judges agree with jury verdicts in an overwhelming proportion of criminal cases.58
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION
Despite major strides made in recent years in bringing a measure of standardization to forensic science education programs and boosting their quality, more information is required on the number of programs that are available and the depth and breadth of the course offerings. It appears that there are no formal and systematically applied standards or standardization requirements for forensic science education programs, making the quality and relevance of existing programs uncertain. Moreover, there are no requirements or incentives in place to ensure that forensic science education programs must be accredited in order to receive federal funds.
Current funding is insufficient for developing graduate training programs that cut across organizational, programmatic, and disciplinary boundaries and that can attract students in the life and physical sciences to pursue graduate studies in multidisciplinary fields critical to forensic science. Similarly, too few funding sources exist for research conducted in association with forensic science graduate programs.
In addition, forensic researchers, legal scholars, and forensic practitioners and members of the bench and bar do not have sufficient opportuni-
Ibid. See also W.C. Thompson and E.L. Schumann. 1987. Interpretation of statistical evidence in criminal trials: The prosecutor’s fallacy and the defense attorney’s fallacy. Lawand Human Behavior 11:167-187; W.C. Thompson. 1989. Are juries competent to evaluate statistical evidence? Law and Contemporary Problems 52:9-41.
J.J. Koehler. 2001. When are people persuaded by DNA match statistics? Law and Human Behavior 25:493-513; D.A. Nance and S.B. Morris. 2002. An empirical assessment of presentation formats for trace evidence with a relatively large and quantifiable random match probability. Jurimetrics Journal 42:403-448; J. Schklar and S.S. Diamond. 1999. Juror Understanding of DNA evidence: An empirical assessment of presentation formats for trace evidence with a relatively small random-match probability. Journal of Legal Studies 34:395-444.