Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions: From Exposer to Contributor to Corrector
27 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2012 Last revised: 25 Jul 2012
Date Written: July 18, 2012
Brandon Garrett’s book, Convicting the Innocent, makes a number of important contributions to the scholarly and public discourse on miscarriages of justice. In this essay, I will focus on the contribution that is most related to my own research interests: its contribution to our understanding of the relationship between forensic science and miscarriages of justice. I will first endeavor to place Garrett’s contribution in historical context by briefly tracing the history of discussions about forensic science and wrongful convictions. I will then highlight in what way Garrett’s work has furthered our understanding. I will then discuss some of the criticisms of Garrett’s work by advocates of forensic science and try to explain how data limitations contribute to the difference of opinion between Garrett and his critics. I will conclude by suggesting a different, more theoretically grounded way of conceptualizing miscarriages of justice that might help us move beyond these differences of opinion. Ultimately, however, my suggestions will be highly speculative: data limitations, again, will make it difficult to make any strong empirical inferences about the relationship between forensic science and wrongful convictions.
Keywords: forensic science, wrongful conviction, miscarriages of justice, innocence
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