Forensic Science

IV. Conclusion

Due to the wide variation of facets in the forensic sciences, the undertaking of sifting through all methods and techniques of all forensics is the stuff that makes up a complete book, if not a series of books. As outlined in this research paper, a variety of types of examinations performed in forensic laboratories cannot even be assessed with conventional statistics with the exceptions of DNA analysis and blood group typing (which has lost prevalence as DNA analysis gained popularity), and certain analyses of gunshot residue models (Faigman, Kaye, Saks, & Sanders., 2002). Therefore, it is important to cite the variability of the subjectivity and objectivity within these methods and techniques to gain some insight into the overall utility of these analyses as stand-alone pieces of information. David Faigman et al. begin taking on the task of typing many techniques used within the vast fields of the forensic sciences in terms of amount of subjectivity, reliability in the minds of forensic scientists, and their individual susceptibility of attack when measured by the criteria posited by Daubert. Since no aggregate data are available to seek relative frequency probabilities, it is up to the experience of the individual examiner to establish levels of confidence around his or her determinations. The complexities of placing these confidence intervals around scientific testing are apparent to those with even an elementary knowledge of statistics.

The future of forensic science has much to do with evolving with the standards the courts will set over the coming years. If more states were to move to the Daubert criteria for evaluating expert testimony, it is more likely that a portion of the more subjective-heavy analyses of forensic science would be decommissioned. While many would argue that this is a necessary and overdue development in forensic science, a good portion of these forensic services do offer value to investigators that may or may not be lost. For example, there is no reason that investigators or litigants should not continue to use these services to provide this value—it is just that the information found in the final reports of these investigations must be used only to help someone make a case and would not be allowed at trial. As previously suggested, these analyses can lead to further inquiries, which may break cases wide open, whether they are civil or criminal.

As a conglomerate of professions, the forensic sciences are actively overhauling their professional codes of ethics to address the rash of cases in which rogue forensic scientists were falsifying reports, doing bad science, and egregiously overstepping their bounds as expert witnesses. While frauds exist in every aspect of life, any person who harms the liberty of another person just for personal gain or lack of professionalism is surely the most despised from both within and outside of the professions. Even entire crime labs have been identified as corrupt. Accreditation that is monitored by professional organizations, and making these accreditation processes more robust, have been seen as ways to begin to root out such problems before they begin. This accreditation must be maintained throughout one’s professional career and through the duration of a lab’s existence.

On a final note, much investment has been made in professionalization and the encouragement of continuing education and training to assist forensic practitioners in expanding their knowledge base. This will assist these professionals in keeping up with the state of the art in the fast-paced world of science and technology, and their advancement. The most recent U.S. presidents have also made commitments to expand forensic science research and development, particularly in the DNA analysis and human identification areas. Such advances in technology will be key for many years to come in the U.S. criminal justice system’s capacity to solve crimes, seek justice, and learn truths about the many mysteries that will confront it.

Browse criminal justice research papers or view criminal justice research topics.

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