Sunday, October 24, 2004

"The First Book-Length History of Expert Evidence in Common-Law Courts"

The current issue of American Scientist Online contains a review by Jennifer L. Mnookin of what she calls "the first book-length history of expert evidence in common-law courts":

Laws of Men and Laws of Nature: The History of Scientific Expert Testimony in England and America. Tal Golan. x + 325 pp. Harvard University Press, 2004. $49.95.
From her review:

Lawyers, judges and experts continue to express a set of related anxieties: that credulous juries may naively succumb to "junk science" proffered by opportunistic experts; that both judges and juries, lacking specialized scientific training, may be unable adequately to evaluate complex scientific and technical information; that adversarial processes and scientific knowledge are fundamentally mismatched. As Tal Golan shows in his engaging history of expert evidence in the Anglo-American courtroom, none of these frustrations is of recent vintage, and in fact, complaints about expert testimony are nearly as old as expert testimony itself.
We've put it on our shopping list.

Update 10/30/04: Harvard University Press has been kind enough to honor our request for a review copy. Stay tuned for our take on the book.


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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.