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13 - Latent Justice

Fingerprint Evidence and the Limits of Adversarialism in England, Australia and New Zealand

from Part IV - Expert Evidence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2022

Jordi Ferrer Beltrán
Universitat de Girona
Carmen Vázquez
Universitat de Girona
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This chapter offers a critical review of reported fingerprint cases in three common law jurisdictions covering the period from the beginning of the twentieth century until the time of publication. It considers how the tools of adversarialism were applied to the admissibility and use of fingerprint evidence in criminal proceedings. It provides a detailed survey of the manner in which defence and appellate counsel contested fingerprint evidence, how courts responded to these challenges in trials and appeals and, implicitly, how examiners testified and prosecutors presented this evidence. In order to facilitate the analysis, the chapter draws upon mainstream scientific research and recommendations. This scientific knowledge operates as a standard that can be used to evaluate legal representations and uses of fingerprint evidence, as well as the effectiveness of legal rules, procedures and personnel. The chapter concludes that legal institutions in each one of these jurisdictions were basically inattentive to the epistemological dimensions of latent fingerprint evidence. Adversarial trial safeguards, including appeals, did not bring the lack of testing and systematic over-claiming to the attention of the courts.

Evidential Legal Reasoning
Crossing Civil Law and Common Law Traditions
, pp. 248 - 295
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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