Can they ever be wrong?

“Judges cautioned against reliance on overstated ballistics testimony”

From Grits for Breakfast:
Recently, thanks to contributions from readers, Grits purchased a copy of the brand spanking new third edition of the “Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence” produced by the Federal Judicial Center and the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science – the first update of the manual in more than a decade . . . .
As with other comparative forensic techniques from fingerprints to bitemarks to microscopic hair examination, essentially, all ballistics experts are really saying is “After looking at them closely, I think these two things look alike.” It strikes this writer that it’s quite a big leap from “reasonable scientific certainty” to “more likely than not.” Basically it’s the leap from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to having “substantial doubt.” I wonder how many past convictions hinged on testimony where experts used phrases like “reasonable scientific certainty” or “to the exclusion of all other firearms in the world”? And I wonder how many times those experts were simply wrong?
October 20, 2011 | Permalink

Supremes Missed the Boat….

It becomes obvious that the members of the Supreme Court have never tried a criminal case and the one that is closest was a prosecutor…they completely miss the point of the eyewitness argument and their recent oral argument on the subject shows a real lack of sophistication on the matter….one need look only no farther than the number of eye witness identifications that were made in convictions that were subsequently overturned by DNA evidence…Humans are not video players …we should not treat them as such….

Eyewitness Identification….

34 Years Later, Supreme Court Will Revisit Eyewitness IDs”

Adam Liptak’s story is in the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — Every year, more than 75,000 eyewitnesses identify suspects in criminal investigations. Those identifications are wrong about a third of the time, a pile of studies suggest.
. . .
In November, the Supreme Court will return to the question of what the Constitution has to say about the use of eyewitness evidence. The last time the court took a hard look at the question was in 1977. Since then, the scientific understanding of human memory has been transformed.