Impinging on the Court’s authority

One of the strangest arguments I have heard raised in argument against the logical approach is that it means the expert will impinge upon the authority of the Court. I have heard this a few times recently. It is particularly troubling that this has come from lawyers. Unfortunately, this has always happened in a venue where I could not actually discuss the matter with them.

As an objection to the logical approach, this is the strangest argument I have ever heard, without a doubt. In fact, proper application of the logical approach is one of the few ways to ensure that this will not happen.

To clarify, it is important to first understand the concept of “usurping the role of the Court” which means, in essence, to improperly influence the court’s procedures and decision-making, often by speaking inappropriately to or about the ultimate issue. To be sure, there is a legitimate concern that this might happen, particularly with an expert. At the same time, it is certainly not a new idea and it has been written about literally for years.

It can be found in most codes and directives regarding expert evidence. Indeed, Justice Sopinka noted this issue in the 1994 R. v. Mohan ruling when he stated, in part, “There is also a concern inherent in the application of this criterion that experts not be permitted to usurp the functions of the trier of fact.” 

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David H. Kaye’s “Forensic Science, Statistics & the Law” Blog

David H. Kaye (DHK) is one of my favourite writers. He is truly prolific and always manages to provide great insights for the reader. His grasp of statistics, logic, and the law is second-to-none, and his ability to communicate those very challenging topics to his audience is equally impressive.

As a mini introduction, David “…is Distinguished Professor, and Weiss Family Scholar in the School of Law, a graduate faculty member of Penn State’s Forensic Science Program, and a Regents’ Professor Emeritus, ASU.” If you would like to see a list of his publications check out 

Yes, DHK has written many things on many topics.1  But I would like to focus on his less formal writings from his blog  Forensic Science, Statistics & the Law.

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Interesting and Useful Stuff

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Forensic Document Examination is a complex area involving many different topics and abilities.  I am always looking for useful resources that can help me do this work and some of that information can be found online.

In time I would like to provide a more fulsome list of online resources pertaining to the different facets of this work but that is going to take a while to compile and it will be an ongoing project.  Still there are already a few websites I consider to be particularly interesting and useful.  I’ve compiled them into a list to serve as a starting point for a more complete and general list.

Some of these relate to Forensic Document Examination, some to logic and reasoning, and some pertain to programming and statistics (i.e., my main areas of interest). They are not listed in any particular order.  Other categories, and more sites, may be added from time to time.  In the meantime, I hope that you find them as interesting and useful as I have.  If you know of other sites that you think might be included here, please let me know via the contact page.  Enjoy!!

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ASQDE “Conclusions and Logical Inference” Workshop 2013

This year the Annual General Meeting of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (ASQDE) ASQDE 2013 is being held in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 24 through 29, 2013. In keeping with the theme, “Demonstrative Science: Illustrating Findings in Reports and Court Testimony”, I will be presenting a one-day workshop entitled “Conclusion Scales and Logical Inference” on Sunday, August 25.
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Introduction to the Logical Approach to Evidence Evaluation

It is absolutely true that most forensic scientists want to be completely logical, open and transparent in their approach to the evaluation of evidence.  Further, I am sure that most document examiners believe this is exactly what they are achieving when they apply the procedures outlined in various traditional textbooks or the SWGDOC/ ASTM standards; for example, the SWGDOC Standard for Examination of Handwritten Items.

Given the very understandable desire to be logical, I find it strange that so many people have a negative attitude towards anything Bayesian in nature.  After all, an approach to evidence evaluation conforming to the Bayesian philosophy or approach would be quite literally the embodiment of logic (more specifically, probabilistic logic).

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