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Oxford journal issue dedicated to Law College conference

March 15, 2010

The March 2010 edition of Law, Probability & Risk is a special issue about the April 2009 international conference, Forensic Science in the 21st Century: The National Academy of Sciences and Beyond, held at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

The journal features five articles from the proceedings, including "Forensic science reform in the 21st century: a major conference, a blockbuster report and reasons to be pessimistic." It was written by Jay Koehler, a professor at the College of Law and co-chairman of the conference, which was among the first to dissect the NAS report, titled "Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward."

In it, Koehler considers the significance of the report and offers reasons to be pessimistic about whether major reforms are forthcoming.

"The good news is that everyone is talking," he writes. "Forensic scientists, lawyers, judges, legislators, statisticians, chemists, psychologists, criminologists, historians of science and many others are now in the conversation. Some people are listening to opposing points of view and trying to find common ground for purposes of figuring out what the next steps should be. From a scientific standpoint, this type of inclusive process worked to resolve some (but not all) disagreements that arose in the so-called DNA wars of the 1990s (Lander and Budowle, 1994; Saks and Koehler, 2005; Thompson, 1993). This fact alone should make me an optimist, and (ASU Regents' Professor of Law and Psychology Michael) Saks and I expressed substantial optimism in the Science paper cited above."

"But in light of the defensive response to the NRC report by the forensic science community, the poor understanding of the scientific issues among legislators and jurists, and the ordinary human tendency to prefer the status quo, I am pessimistic about the prospects for major structural reforms in the traditional forensic sciences," Koehler writes.

The issue's other articles are: "What 'Strengthening Forensic Science' today means for tomorrow: DNA exceptionalism and the 2009 NAS report" by Erin Murphy, Assistant Professor of Law, Berkeley Law, University of California; "Who speaks for science? A response to the National Academy of Sciences Report on forensic science" by Simon A. Cole, Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine; "The use of technology in human expert domains: challenges and risks arising from the use of automated fingerprint identification systems in forensic science" by Itiel Drior, of the University College, London; and Jennifer Mnookin, Vice Dean and Professor, UCLA School of Law; and "Rational bias in forensic science" by Glen Whitman, Associate Professor of Economics, California State University, Northridge, and Roger Koppl, Director of the Institute for Forensic Science Administration and Professor of Economics and Finance, Fairleigh Dickinson University.

To read Koehler's entire article, click here.

To read more about the April 2009 conference, click here.

Koehler studies quantitative reasoning in the law, behavioral decision theory, and the psychology of investment. He holds the first, full joint faculty appointment at ASU in the law school and in the W.P. Carey School of Business. Koehler has conducted extensive research in the area of how jurors, attorneys and experts think about scientific and statistical evidence, and how investors make financial decisions. He also has served as an expert witness on statistical evidence in many cases and was a consultant for the defense in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law