Texas Court Responds to Junk Science

Recently a case in Texas has highlighted the idea that the law can respond to changes in forensic science, especially when a previously accepted forensic technique is shown to be “junk science.” The case is reported about in the Texas Public radio website by Ryan Poppe, who reports:

The attorneys for Neal Robbins used a new law that allows for a new trial if the forensic science used to convict them is discredited and out-of-date

on http://tpr.org/post/texas-highest-criminal-court-hears-first-case-using-new-junk-science-law

One of the disconnects between science and the law is just this problem–a legal ruling would like to be seen as static and unchanging, but science is not. In fact, science is built to be revised, and a revision in scientific knowledge might change a ruling.  As scientists, let’s make sure that the science we bring to a trial is the best it can be, validated, reliable, tested outside of litigation on forensically feasible, “ground truth” data so that we know a method’s error rate. If we follow this paradigm, which in forensic linguistics is known as the “ILE paradigm,” then at least our methods have a small chance of being revised and later cast away as junk science.