Fall 2018

Certainty & Uncertainty in Reporting Fingerprint Evidence

Joseph B. Kadane and Jonathan J. Koehler
Fingerprint evidence can be extremely incriminating. But it is unclear how the description of fingerprint evidence by the examiner influences the weight lay jurors assign to it. Joseph B. Kadane and Jonathan J. Koehler describe their experiment that tested how lay people responded to different presentations of fingerprint evidence in a hypothetical criminal case. They found that people attached more weight to the evidence when the fingerprint examiner indicated that he believed or knew that the defendant was the source of the print. When the examiner offered a weaker, but more scientifically justifiable, conclusion, the evidence was given less weight. The authors conclude by considering implications for ongoing reform efforts.
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