Monday, September 27, 2010

The Interdependence of Science and Law

Today's topic comes from recent events in the court. The title comes from an article by Assoc. US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

A local attorney enquired recently as to efforts underway to mitigate the Beckley decision here in California. It sparked an interesting discussion. I got to thinking ...

Should Beckley be mitigated? Certainly the technology exists to authenticate images independent from the subject of the photo or the photographer. But there aren't enough people, outside of academia, to work on the volumes of cases being tried around the state. There's got to be a better way.

Here's an idea from Justice Breyer: "Judge Jack B. Weinstein of New York suggests that courts should sometimes “go beyond the experts proffered by the parties” and “appoint independent experts” as the Federal Rules of Evidence allow. Judge Gerald Rosen of Michigan appointed a University of Michigan Medical School professor to testify as an expert witness for the court, helping to determine the relevant facts in a case that challenged a Michigan law prohibiting partial-birth abortions. Judge Richard Stearns of Massachusetts, acting with the consent of the parties in a recent, highly technical genetic engineering patent case, appointed a Harvard Medical School professor to serve “as a sounding board for the court to think through the scientific significance of the evidence” and to “assist the court in determining the validity of any scientific evidence, hypothesis or theory on which the experts base their testimony.”

In other words, why not create a panel of experts who have the tools, training, and experience in independently authenticating images? Sure, the panel would be small ... but why not? California is not that big, is it? Those of us that follow Hany Farid's work (and have applied it to cases) could collectively pick up the slack whilst others got their training and tools together?

It's just a thought ...

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