Examining Ways to Reduce Error in Expert Forensic Testimony

A new technical report, Potential of Blind Collaborative Justice: Testing the Impact of Expert Blinding and Consensus Building on the Validity of Forensic Testimony<https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/248829.pdf>, evaluates the ability of expert blinding and consensus feedback to improve the validity of expert testimony, specifically in the context of forensic science.

The report, written by Carolyn Wong, Eyal Aharoni, Gursel Rafig oglu Aliyev, and Jacqueline Du Bois, offers two key findings:

From the abstract...

1) Expert consensus feedback resulted in a performance improvement. Expert consensus feedback regarding the correct response to the reasoning problem demonstrated the predicted significant effect on response errors; i.e., the delivery of feedback resulted in improved performance. Higher levels of consulting experience and education were not associated with greater response accuracy. These findings also indicate that presentation of expert consensus has the potential of decreasing the rate of erroneous responses.

2) No advantage due to blinding was found. Modest evidence of an allegiance bias was found: Participants assigned to testify on behalf of the prosecution (the party favored by the evidence in the hypothetical criminal case used in the experiment) produced greater errors than those assigned to testify for the defense. However, evidence of a relative advantage due to blinding was not found.

The effect of consensus exposure suggests that consensus expert feedback could be a promising way to reduce individual error in expert testimony, but research is needed to confirm the effect of consensus exposure and address practical and fairness issues associated with implementing consensus exposure mechanisms in real-world settings.

Click here to read the full report.

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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.