Cabining Judicial Discretion Over Forensic Evidence with a New Special Relevance Rule

Emma F.E. Shoucair*

Modern forensic evidence suffers from a number of flaws, including insufficient scientific grounding, exaggerated testimony, lack of uniform best practices, and an inefficacious standard for admission that regularly allows judges to admit scientifically unsound evidence. This Note discusses these problems, lays out the current landscape of forensic science reform, and suggests the addition of a new special relevance rule to the Federal Rules of Evidence (and similar rules in state evidence codes). This proposed rule would cabin judicial discretion to admit non-DNA forensic evidence by barring prosecutorial introduction of such evidence in criminal trials absent a competing defense expert or a high showing of scientific viability.

*J.D., May 2018, University of Michigan Law School. First and foremost, my gratitude to my husband Jason Henry and my dog Ruby for tolerating the production of this Note. I would also like to thank my Notes Editors, Matthew Wallace, Paul Hoversten, and Mel Cassel, for their feedback and support, as well as Arianna Demas, Patrick Maroun, Jonathan Tietz, and Megan Brown for the work they have done on this piece. Finally, many thanks to Professors Eve Brensike Primus and Imran Syed for their feedback on earlier versions of this paper. All errors are my own.

Download as PDF