Individualization Claims in Forensic Science: Still Unwarranted

17 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2011

Date Written: June 1, 2010


In a 2008 paper published in the Vanderbilt Law Review entitled “The Individualization Fallacy in Forensic Science Evidence,” we argued that no scientific basis exists for the proposition that forensic scientists can “individualize” an unknown marking (such as a fingerprint, tire track, or handwriting sample) to a particular person or object to the exclusion of all others in the world. In this special issue of the Brooklyn Law Review, we clarify, refine, and extend some of the ideas presented in Fallacy. Some of the refinements are prompted by Professor David Kaye’s paper, also in this issue of the Review, in which he takes issue with some of the arguments we made in Fallacy. We conclude that forensic scientists should not be permitted to capitalize on the lack of supportive scientific data about either characteristic frequency or their own diagnostic reliability by going beyond what is known and what can be stated on good grounds.

Keywords: forensic science, individualization

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Koehler, Jonathan J. and Saks, Michael J., Individualization Claims in Forensic Science: Still Unwarranted (June 1, 2010). Brooklyn Law Review, Vol. 75, p. 1187, 2010; Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 11-18. Available at SSRN:

Jonathan J. Koehler

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Michael J. Saks (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

111 E. Taylor Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
United States

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