Forensic Science and Erroneous Convictions

SLN #: 14656
Course Prefix: LAW-791
Course Section: 013
Credit Hours: 2/3
Instructor(s): Saks

Course Description:
In this seminar, through reading both cases and commentary, we will examine:
(a) the basic concepts and claims of forensic science, with emphasis on forensic identification (those areas being fingerprints, handwriting, ballistics, etc.);
(b) the intellectual and legal history which casts light on how these came to be so thoroughly accepted as valid by the courts;
(c) the nature of the current troubles and controversies about forensic science and their sources, including:
(i) scientific shortcomings (both scientific foundations and examination procedures)
(ii) changes in law (the Daubert trilogy (or quartet))
(iii) DNA typing - as a model
(iv) erroneous convictions - revealed by DNA typing and other means
(v) National Research Council review of the forensic sciences

Students take over from there, conducting and presenting their own research on such issues as:
(a) Prospects for reform and improvement within the forensic science
(b) Prospects for reform and improvement through state legislation and regulation
(c) Prospects for reform and improvement through federal legislation and regulation (esp as recommended by the NRC)
(d) Responses of the forensic science community to the NRC Report
(e) Prospects for reform and improvement through judicial action
(f) The minimal standards that need to be set to ensure sound forensic science expert testimony
(g) Comparative perspectives (aka: what is going on in other countries?)
(h) and other issues and topics that seminar members wish to pursue

Additional Information:
Credit Hours: 2/3
Grading Option: Numeric Grade and ONE-Time Pass Option is Available, or Letter Grade Only
Graduation Writing Requirement: Yes, With Instructor's Approval*
Flexible Writing Requirement: Yes*
Skills Requirement: No
Note: Only one of the above listed requirements can be fulfilled with this course.
Experiential Learning: No
Limited Enrollment Number: 15
Final Exam Given: No
Paper or In-Class Presentation: Yes
Attendance Policy: Per Statement of Student Policies
Additional Attendance Policy: Yes

* The law school has a policy that is used to calculate credit hours. Please see the Statement of Student Policies.