Sunday, November 02, 2003

Evidence and Death

The Sunday NYT reports that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is proposing a more exacting standard for forensic evidence -- but only in capital cases, where it may help to preserve the political palatability of the death penalty. Under the Governor's proposal, a death sentence could be imposed only if physical evidence of guilt met "the highest evidentiary standard." That standard remains undefined, so far, but presumably it would be more stringent than the middling evidentiary standards appropriate for forensic evidence in cases involving mere life sentences.
Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.