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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

How forensic identification experts describe their observations and express their opinions in court can be expected to have important effects on what jurors and judges conclude from this evidence. But the communication of findings from forensic identification analyses can be challenging as experts try to express their results accurately: without error, exaggeration or intentionally or unintentionally misleading fact finders. In this Article, we discuss how fact finders interpret and respond to the expert testimony of forensic science examiners, and how expert testimony can be made most informative. We first describe the results of several empirical studies we have done which demonstrate how variations in the way forensic expert testimony is presented affects the conclusions fact finders draw concerning the evidence. Next, with the help of research in the area of risk communication, as well as forensic communication, we explore ways in which the communication of forensic identification examination results might be improved. We then turn to a review of the relevant literature on fact finders' interpretation of statistical and probability evidence as it applies to forensic identification, and the limited extent to which opposing experts and cross-examination counter the influence of an expert's testimony.

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