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Copyright (c) 2008 Seton Hall University School of Law
Seton Hall Law Review

GUILT VS. GUILTINESS: Innocents at Risk: Adversary Imbalance, Forensic Science, and the Search for Truth

2008

Seton Hall Law Review

38 Seton Hall L. Rev. 893

Author

Keith A. Findley*

Excerpt



I. Introduction

Trials are about finding the truth. Truth-seeking is an essential function of trials under the "dominant official account of the trial and its proper purposes," which scholars have referred to as, among other things, the "Search for Truth" model, the "Rationalist Tradition," the "Rectitude of Decision" model, and the "Received View of the Trial." 1 By truth, I mean here truth about historical fact - what happened, whether the defendant in a criminal case committed the acts charged. While trials also resolve other, softer questions of truth - normative, value-laden judgments about matters such as degrees of culpability, states of mind, and degrees of harm 2 - at their most fundamental level, trials are about resolving historical questions about who did what. 3

But even on such questions of hard historical fact, truth will always be imperfect, and trials will always be imperfect mechanisms for ascertaining truth. Scholars have noted that determinations about past acts or events differ from determinations centered on moral or normative questions, such as issues about states of mind or degrees of culpability, because the latter turn on narrative accounts that are less susceptible to precise determination. 4 But, while it is true that moral or value assessments are especially incompatible with notions of objective truth, issues of hard historical fact also turn on narrative accounts that can elude accurate or objective assessment. Lawyers are keenly aware that their ability to convince a jury of the "truth" of their client's account of what happened ...
 
 
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