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NCJ Number: 168983 Find in a Library
Title: They Blinded Me With Science
Journal: ABA Journal  Volume:82  Dated:(September 1996)  Pages:58-62
Author(s): P Reidinger
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 5
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993) increases the responsibilities of Federal judges as "gatekeepers" for admitting scientific testimony.
Abstract: "Daubert" was the Court's first attempt to guide lower courts in dealing with scientific evidence. Until "Daubert," most Federal and State jurisdictions handled scientific evidence according to the rule announced by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Frye v. United States (1923). Under the Frye rule, expert opinion was admissible as evidence only if it was based on a scientific technique "sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs." The question before the Court in "Daubert" was not whether "Frye" was a bad or outdated or useless ruling; it was rather whether the rule it announced survived the 1975 enactment of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The Court, in a fractured opinion, held that it did not. Under "Daubert," Federal judges are required to make a "preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the expert testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology can be applied to the facts in issue." Generally, experts agree that Federal judges are up to the task of assessing the basic worth of proffered scientific testimony. If "Daubert" continues to be rigorously interpreted and applied by the lower courts, the likelihood that unscientific assertions will be heard by juries will diminish. Still, the conflict between the methodology of science and that of law cannot be resolved. Science is an evolutionary process of testing hypotheses. What is accepted in a given moment may change under additional research. Legal forums, on the other hand, must make absolute decisions based on what is perceived to be true in a given moment.
Main Term(s): US Supreme Court decisions
Index Term(s): Expert witnesses; Judicial discretion; Rules of evidence; Witness credibility
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