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A Perfect Storm Brewing for Fire Investigators in Court

77 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2014 Last revised: 25 Aug 2015

Terry-Dawn Hewitt

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Wayne J. McKenna

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: March 3, 2014

Abstract

The genesis of this piece comes from a trend the authors have observed in three separate but related areas, which we believe are converging into a perfect storm for fire investigators. These are: 1) the ongoing movement by courts across the nation to scrutinize more closely the reliability of expert testimony, 2) a growing apprehension about wrongful convictions stemming from faulty forensic evidence and problems in fire investigations, culminating in the revolutionary report published by the National Academy of Sciences, and; 3) the continuing development of industry standards that are raising the bar for fire investigators. Part I describes each of these forces, and then Part II demonstrates how together they are creating a mounting pressure on fire investigation experts to defend their qualifications and the reliability of their opinions in court, particularly insofar as analyzing the fire scene and interpreting fire patterns is concerned.

Keywords: NFPA 921, NFPA 1033, NAS Report, NRC Report, A Path Forward, Fire Investigation, Fire Law, Texas Forensic Science Commission, Wrongful Convictions, Arson, Fire Investigator Qualifications, Fire Investigation Standards, Daubert, Weisgram, Fire Patterns, Bias, Expert Witnesses

Suggested Citation

Hewitt, Terry-Dawn and McKenna, Wayne J., A Perfect Storm Brewing for Fire Investigators in Court (March 3, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2381519 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2381519

Terry-Dawn Hewitt (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.du.edu/index.php/profile/td-hewitt

Wayne J. McKenna

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.du.edu/index.php/profile/wayne-mckenna

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