Monday, September 18, 2006

Lawyers "Don't Get" Science


submit by troy m; comments by blogger jgl

I always knew the juries didn't understand evidence, but the lawyers too?

Judith Fordham said that when she was working as a lawyer, before becoming an associate professor in forensic science, she realised how little she and her colleagues knew about forensics...

..."I found that jurors wanted to ask questions about scientific and medical evidence in court because lawyers hadn't asked the right questions,'' said Prof Fordham, who still practises as a barrister while working at Murdoch University.

"Many lawyers have also never learnt how to present forensic evidence because they have no scientific training, despite the huge rise in the use of such evidence.

"So people are potentially being convicted or acquitted wrongly because lawyers don't know enough about science -- it's scary."

I think this may trump up the effects resulting from a lawyer's lack of scientific knowledge.
Since when does a lawyer have to know what he/she is talking about?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that lawyers have a limited science background; lawyers should know the specifics about processing evidence. For instance, I am studying criminal justice and I do not have a strong science background because it is not required when studying the law. I agree that students should have hands on training in order to gain experience in a variety of subjects. I think that instead of studying books students should be given internships that will allow us to learn trades within a specific major instead of having only book knowledge. cv

Anonymous said...

I agree that an attorney's limited knowledge of science can hurt a case, but the law-science connection in court is a two way street. Better dialogue and preparation between attorneys and their scientific experts ensure attorneys understand and appreciate the science behind their evidence. It also helps the experts understand which parts of their evidence are legally significant and must be made clear to a jury. JLB

Anonymous said...

I agree that many attorneys don’t truly understand what forensic science is about and have only touched the field when it was needed. This is because of this lack of understanding, there mentally impaired, when it comes to asking the right questions about certain blood and DNA type evidence.

Most are completely counting on the actual forensic scientist to trigger the right question and only give the evidence that will help their case. With this set up, the attorney is at the mercy of the forensic scientist. Even though some attorneys have classes in forensic science, they don’t have take it as seriously as they should and realize what they miss when it is needed in the court room.

as

Anonymous said...

P.T.
Lawyers have an understanding of science, but there are some things that they do not understand. Is that wrong,no. They did not go to school to study that. However, I do believe that since science is incorporated in the law, lawyers owe it to themselves and their clients to surround themselves with those knowledgeable of science. That in it self is smart and will enhance their knowledge of science.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that what expert witnesses are for? I agree with P.T. that lawyers didn't go to school to study science.

I also think that attorneys have more access to more information than ever before (thank you, internet), so maybe the gap is being bridged?

DA

Forensic Bloggers said...

All-

good comments. you all seem to have a common theme going, which i agree with. There is no need to require lawyers have science training (i.e. especially id you are going into contract law or something), but lawyers owe it to themselves to self-educate. Currently, as forensic science advances, lawyers have access to many types of "workshops" or training courses that last a weekend or a couple weeks.

I guess the real question is, are enough lawyers training themselves properly?

-jgl

Anonymous said...

I believe that lawyers do have a limited knowledge of science, but that is because they are trained to study the law. Having a scientific background is not in their job description. In this day and age, it would definitely help any lawyer to know the basics of science that pertain to the evidence in his/her case. A solution to the problem would be for lawyers to work one on one with the scientific witnesses in their cases so they can be aware of the scientific evidence and what it means to their cases, but I do not believe that a strong background in the sciences is needed. CM

Forensic Bloggers said...

cm-

i agree. also, all lawyers shouldn't be required to have that education. for example, dna knowledge wouldn't play a big role in real estate law.

i'm not sure what kind of forensic courses are offered during law school. i think for the most part, lawyers gain this knowledge through workshops and other types of continuing education after they get out of law school.

-jgl

Anonymous said...

Although lawyers and attorneys do have a limited science background, their goal is to prove guilt or innocence by presenting the facts. In doing so, I think that it is neccessary for lawyers and attorneys to have some understanding and knowledge about the evidence they present. The burden should not rest on testimony from expert witnesses in presenting the scientific findings alone. It is the duty of both parties to help build a strong case in favor of or against.

FB

Forensic Bloggers said...

FB -

true. the responsibilities of criminal lawyers seems to increase as lab technologies move forward. luckily, they do have some help.

the DOJ has put together some online training for lawyers at: http://www.dna.gov/training/prosecutors-notebook/

-jgl

D'tM said...

Can someone respond to this case, although lawyer myself I was left wordless
MK

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