Fall 2018

The Uncertain Future of Forensic Science

Jennifer L. Mnookin

Forensic science is at a crossroads. In the last two decades, pattern evidence, like fingerprint, tool mark, and bite mark identification, has faced significant criticism for lacking adequate scientific validation or proven reliability. But the law, where so much relies on precedent, has been resistant to accepting new scientific findings. Jennifer L. Mnookin argues that the current state of forensic science reform is both “half empty” and “half full”: there has been modest and meaningful – but far from adequate or transformative – reform. She maintains that the best hope for sustained, substantial changes necessary for improving forensic science evidence within the justice system requires the creation of a national commission or institutional body that includes both research scientists and other institutional stakeholders and prevents “capture” by either forensic practitioners or advocates within our adversarial system.

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