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Supreme Court Screws Up the Science: There is No Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome “Scientific” Controversy
Utah L. Rev.
  • Joelle A. Moreno, Florida International University College of Law
  • Brian Holmgren, District Attorney's Office, Nashville, TN
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
1-1-2013
Excerpt

Litigation-driven science compromises the judicial system's overarching goals of pursuing accurate and just results. As Professor Susan Haack has explained, research "undertaken for the purpose of finding evidence favoring one side in litigation, and explaining away or otherwise playing down evidence favoring the other side [is] . . . advocacy research . . . inherently in danger of bias." Moreover, litigation-driven science creates critical problems in the full range of science dependent legal contexts because it invariably "tends toward the predetermined conclusion irrespective of where the evidence points; the results it produces don't depend on where the evidence really leads.'

A Litigation-driven science, like the policy-driven science that motivates so called scientific debates over evolution and climate change, may be difficult for nonscientist judges and jurors to accurately identify and assess. Misunderstandings are also more likely to increase than to abate, given the general public's troubling lack of basic scientific knowledge illustrated by the fact that 53% of adults do not know how long it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun, 41% believe that the earliest humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, and 47% cannot even roughly approximate how much of the earth's surface is covered with water. Moreover, for better or worse, the jury selection process virtually guarantees the exclusion of prospective jurors who have subject matter knowledge in the areas that are the focus of the litigation. Under these circumstances, nonscientist legal fact-finders need all the help they can get to distinguish legitimate science from its counterfeits.'

Citation Information
Joelle A. Moreno and Brian Holmgren. "Supreme Court Screws Up the Science: There is No Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome “Scientific” Controversy" Utah L. Rev. Vol. 2013 (2013) p. 1357
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joelle-moreno/9/