The appearance of science can become the appearance of truth – even when the junk science is employed. Do we provide enough bandwidth to debunk these unreliable scientific claims?
The Appearance of Science
An analyst from a crime lab testifies that a defendant, who is charged with DUI, has a blood alcohol concentration of .120. Despite the legal requirements that the state must prove the test is trustworthy, most jurors have made a blink judgement the that test is correct.
As is often the case, the appearance of science is a powerful tool of persuasion. This is true even when the opinion is based upon junk science.
Here, despite the claims of the analyst and unbeknownst to the jury, the test result was done using unreliable equipment relying on defective software. Your challenge: undo the jury’s initial judgments, demonstrate the analyst is too biased and lacking the qualifications to understand the severity of the equipment’s defects, and show the result can’t be trusted. This is no small task.
This task will take time. It requires a thorough understanding of the many underlying scientific disciplines involved. Adequately educating the jury will require information from several different sources. Each piece of evidence will present a different evidentiary challenge.
In short, beyond the inherent difficulties of such cases, you also have a bandwidth problem.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. DUI trials have time and evidentiary limitations. There are not intended to be semester long science classes. There are practical realities inhibiting you from properly educating a jury with the knowledge they need to debunk these unsound claims.
If left unaddressed, a court may not even recognize this bandwidth dilemma.
When Netflix Buffers
Consider the problem in the following terms. A presentation that does not reach the audience persuades no one. If Netflix creates next years best new drama, but there is not enough bandwidth to stream it, then what was the point of creating it. No one pays a subscription fee to see a “buffering” message. Quality is meaningless without bandwidth.
When Courtrooms Buffers
Being right is not enough. The best argument never convinces a jury when they are not perceived.
When the medium does not permit a sufficient delivery of its message then its incapable of persuasion. In the courtrooms where forensic science is being challenged , you don’t just have a right or wrong problem – you have a bandwidth problem. If courts and lawyers neglect the bandwidth issue then no one may hear the right issue.