Investigating Science, Administering Justice: Toward a Systemic Understanding of Forensic Science

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Legal scholar Jennifer E. Laurin addressed the reliability of forensic evidence at the Fifth Annual Judge Stephanie K. Seymour Lecture in Law at The University of Tulsa College of Law on Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

Prof. Laurin also appeared on TU Public Radio's Studio Tulsa to discuss her lecture.

Laurin is an assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Law. The title of her lecture is "Investigating Science, Administering Justice: Toward a Systemic Understanding of Forensic Science." Forensic science practices and usage in the criminal justice system are increasingly a subject of critical attention. Significant advancements in DNA technology have led to increased use and novel applications of forensic science within the law enforcement community, and have generated enthusiasm for expanding the availability of scientific evidence in criminal investigations. Simultaneously, the exonerations of the last decade and a half have focused attention on the potential for error in and misuse of scientific analysis in criminal adjudication.

A number of academic and legislative proposals have aimed to reform forensic science, largely by focusing on laboratory practices and courtroom procedures. But the deficiencies seen in forensic science are more systemic than these proposals acknowledge. Laurin’s work aims to illuminate how forensic science is not simply produced from a laboratory but is also deployed in pretrial activities by police and prosecutors – dynamics that she argues must be confronted because the actual institutional and structural context within which forensic science operates might undermine gains that are predicted from laboratory and courtroom reforms. More broadly, Laurin aims to advance the view that any criminal justice reform efforts must attend to the structural and institutional dynamics that drive criminal justice outcomes.

Laurin earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School and her B.A. in politics from Earlham College. Laurin joined the faculty of the University of Texas School of Law in 2009. She served as a law clerk to Judge Thomas Griesa of the Southern District of New York and Judge Guido Calabresi of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and spent several years as a litigation associate with the New York City civil rights firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP (formerly Cochran Neufeld & Scheck, LLP). Laurin is widely published in the areas of criminal and constitutional litigation, and regulation of criminal justice institutions.

Professor Laurin was also inverviewed by TU's own public radio program, Studio Tulsa during her visit.