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Hastings Law Journal

Authors

Allan Jamieson

Abstract

This paper outlines a convenient categorization of the means by which evidence moves from crime scene to court; the forensic process. This process is proposed to include; Protection, Recording, Collection, Analysis, Interpretation, Evaluation, and Presentation.

A rational scientific approach to the process is discussed in terms of a cycle of observation, and hypothesis building and testing. The matching process, common to almost all forensic sciences, is assessed in the forensic and scientific contexts. Particular emphasis is recommended to differentiate between the processes of interpretation and evaluation. 'Interpretation' is proposed to be the results of the analytical process with no case-dependent conclusions. 'Evaluation' is defined as the significance of the interpretation within the context of the case.

Specific difficulties in the analysis of DNA, believed by some to be the gold standard in scientific forensic individualization, are used to illustrate the proposed definitions of analysis, interpretation and evaluation and the particular problems with DNA profiling in the forensic context. The potential problem of context effects is briefly discussed.

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