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Copyright (c) 2012 The Regents of the University of California
UCLA Law Review

COMMENT: Techniques for Mitigating Cognitive Biases in Fingerprint Identification

June, 2012

UCLA Law Review

59 UCLA L. Rev. 1252


Elizabeth J. Reese


The depiction of forensic science in television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and Without a Trace has become a pop culture phenomenon. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for example, was for a time the most popular television series in the world, and Nielsen data indicate that there has been enormous exposure to the show's franchise. 1 However, popular television shows' portrayals of forensic science are overwhelmingly inaccurate. 2 The viewer generally comes away with the sense that forensic science is foolproof. 3 Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

In fact, academic critics have recently begun to realize that there may be "surprisingly little science in some of what is called forensic science." 4 Since the U.S. Supreme Court's holdings in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 5 and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 6 which articulated that judges have a gatekeeping responsibility to ensure that all expert testimony is sufficiently reliable, academic critics have reviewed forensic science evidence with greater scrutiny - and, as a result, many have been surprised to learn how "scientifically weak" some of the forensic science fields are. 7 Indeed, forensic scientists testifying in court have frequently "overstated their degree of knowledge, underreported the chances of error, and suggested greater certainty than is warranted." 8 And, most disturbingly, recent research has revealed that forensic science errors not only have contributed to numerous known wrongful convictions but also may even be among the leading causes of such convictions. 9
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