Sunday, July 20, 2008

July (4)

This month is really interesting in forensic way. Last Thursday I had to testify in court on a face comparison case. First I had to wait for four hours outside of the court room, before I was called to testify (these are small disadvantages of being a forensic scientist, an expert often has to wait for long times in court, however Dutch courts tend not to call expert witnesses as often as in the United States).

It appeared that they were ready for asking the questions, since all three judges, the two lawyers and the prosecutor were asking questions. It was slightly more difficult compared to other cases, since I was not allowed to have my notes and the reports that we had written in front of me (they took them away). I just had to answer the questions, without looking to any written material.

Then the questioning started. The usual questions were asked concerning expertise, however now there were more questions. We had written our report in a Bayesian conclusion, so I had to explain how this worked, and how it developed. Also some nice questions were concerning the software we used (image visualisation software) and if it was validated, and how it was validated. Furthermore questions concerning proficiency tests between different laboratories and how the field works.

Of course it would be nice if face comparison would be more objective, then with the method that we use now with three different examiners filling in sheets concerning the comparison of the different parts of the face. However the issue is that there is not enough solid research to make it more objective.

This is in many fields in forensic science the case, that the experience of the expert counts for the conclusion. More research should indeed be done in these fields, to make them more objective, and it was for me somewhat disappointing that the European Commission did not put this in the seventh Framework Research projects yet, however I understand they have to make a selection. In the past several efforts have been made in European projects, such as ear comparison fearid etc, however it appears that we need more solid research on the different fields in forensic science to make the conclusions more objective and make the different conclusions of different experts become more calibrated.


Denise said...

Did you forget the extra hour??
You've waited 5 hours outside te court-room!


Denise Brilman

Sarah said...

Greetings from the US
I am a student and would like to conduct more research on digital camera identification so that we can make it, as you say, more objective. After looking over many abstracts and papers conducted by eitehr you or the FBI, I would like some input as to what aspect of digital camera IDs should be researched more?