Demonstrating “reasonable fear” at trial: Is it science or junk science? [Book Review]

Human Studies 31 (2):107 - 131 (2008)
This paper explores how scientific knowledge is used in a criminal case. I examine materials from an admissibility hearing in a murder trial and discuss the dynamics of contesting expert scientific opinion and evidence. The research finds that a purported form of “science” in the relevant scientific community is filtered through, tested by, and subjected to legal standards, conceptions, and procedures for determining admissibility. The paper details how the opposing lawyers, the expert witness, and the judge vie to contingently work out what will count in court as appropriate scientific authority, methods and evidence, and as a scientifically valid and legally admissible account of “reasonable fear.” When science becomes enmeshed in legal controversies, science does not trump law. Rather, it is the court’s canons of proper procedure and measures of substantive adequacy that take precedence.
Keywords Admissibility hearing  Expert witness  Law and science  Junk science  Reasonable fear  Self-defense
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