Discovering Forensic Fraud

18 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2017 Last revised: 2 Oct 2019

See all articles by Jennifer D. Oliva

Jennifer D. Oliva

Seton Hall University School of Law

Valena Elizabeth Beety

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

Date Written: September 3, 2017


This piece posits that certain structural dynamics, which dominate criminal proceedings, significantly contribute to the admissibility of faulty forensic science in criminal trials. The authors believe that these dynamics are more insidious than questionable individual prosecutorial or judicial behavior in this context. Not only are judges likely to be former prosecutors, prosecutors are “repeat players” in criminal litigation and, as such, routinely support reduced pretrial protections for defendants. Therefore, we argue that the significant discrepancies between the civil and criminal pretrial discovery and disclosure rules warrant additional scrutiny.

In the criminal system, the near absence of any pretrial discovery means the criminal defendant has little to no realistic opportunity to challenge forensic evidence prior to the eve of trial. We identify the impact of pretrial disclosure by exploring the admission of expert evidence in criminal cases from a particular forensic discipline, specifically forensic odontology. Finally, this Essay proposes the adoption of pretrial civil discovery and disclosure rules in criminal proceedings to halt the flood of faulty forensic evidence routinely admitted against defendants in criminal prosecutions.

Keywords: forensics, discovery, wrongful conviction, evidence, civil procedure, criminal procedure

Suggested Citation

Oliva, Jennifer and Beety, Valena Elizabeth, Discovering Forensic Fraud (September 3, 2017). 112 Northwestern University Law Review 121 (2017), Available at SSRN:

Jennifer Oliva

Seton Hall University School of Law ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102
United States


Valena Elizabeth Beety (Contact Author)

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

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

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