The emergence of DNA analysis in the 1990s led to serious questioning of the validity of many of the traditional forensic disciplines. Very recently, forensic feature-comparison methods such as hair analysis, bullet comparison, fingerprints, bitemark comparisons, tire and shoe tread analysis, and the like, have been called into question. Additionally, case reviews have found that expert witnesses overstated the probative value of their evidence, going far beyond what the relevant science could justify. Are there additional science-based steps that could help ensure the validity of forensic evidence used in the U.S. legal system?
This course will provide you with the ability to evaluate and interpret scientific and forensic evidence and to rule confidently on their admissibility in both civil and criminal cases. Moreover, you will be able to highlight the limitations and challenges associated with certain types of forensic evidence and describe the current state of forensic methods.
Finally, you will be able to take into account the appropriate scientific criteria for assessing scientific validity including: foundational validity, with respect to the requirement under Rule 702(c) that testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and validity as applied, with respect to requirement under Rule 702(d) that an expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Why should I take this course?
After attending this course, you will be able to recognize the judge’s role as a gatekeeper of scientific evidence and expert testimony; identify the consistencies and contradictions between the cultures of law and science; describe basic statistical concepts commonly used by experts; outline the scientific methods available to researchers studying complex human behavior; state the proper function and qualifications of forensic pathologists; and identify key concepts relating to computer forensic evidence.
What will I learn?
During this course, you will learn to:
- Distinguish the differences and similarities between the Frye “general acceptance” test and the Daubert “scientific reliability” standard.
- Define the process by which scientific discovery is made.
- Describe some of the factors considered in evaluating the relevancy and reliability of proffered scientific evidence.
- Examine and compare data to determine a scientific outcome.
- Identify the key concepts of how computer forensic evidence is recovered and examined.
- Understand what a DNA profile is and identify the most recent developments and best practices in DNA testing.
- Recognize the function and proper qualifications of a forensic pathologist.
- Understand and be familiar with the techniques commonly employed in testing for drugs.
- Explain the basic scientific and statistical concepts of “scientific evidence” and “statistical significance.”
- Knowledgeably discuss the scientific methods available to researchers studying complex human behavior.
Who should attend?
This course is specially developed as an introductory course or as a refresher for judges who hear civil or criminal cases involving scientific evidence.
Who are the members of the faculty?
The faculty is composed of experienced and knowledgeable judges, law professors, and experts from other disciplines who have considerable experience in teaching judges and in using the techniques appropriate for a professional education.
How is this course taught?
The course is presented as an engaging mix of classroom lecture, interactive dialogue, and small-group discussions. You are encouraged to bring examples of particular trial problems for discussion with the faculty and with colleagues from other states.
What should I tell my presiding judge or funding agency so that my attendance will be approved?
By teaching judges the bases of fundamental rights this course enhances their abilities to adjudicate these issues, strengthens dedication to the U.S. system of justice, and dramatizes the role judges play in today’s judicial system.
Whom should I contact for more information?
For more information, please contact the Registrar’s Office at (800) 255-8343 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This course qualifies for 2 credits toward the Master of Judicial Studies Degree Program and Judicial Studies Doctoral Program at the University of Nevada, Reno upon successful completion of the course and passing the course exam. In addition, this course qualifies for The National Judicial College Certificate in Judicial Development Administrative Law Adjudication Skills, General Jurisdiction Trial Skills, Special Court Trial Skills, and the Tribal Judicial Skills disciplines.