JUDICIAL ERROR AND
Pondering the Contribution of DNA Evidence
BEATRICE SCHIFFER AND
Judicial error or miscarriage of justice will “invariably identify at least some element of an earlier conviction as a mistake: whether evidential, procedural or material irregularity” (Edmond, 2002). In this chapter, we restrict ourselves to examining the contribution of forensic science as a catalyst of either enabling or detecting miscarriage of justice. New pieces of evidence and facts provide the evidence needed for successful appeal. With the advent of new techniques, forensic science can fill this gap. It allows for demonstrating errors without questioning the integrity of the legal system, being an extraneous factor to it. Because, in recent decades a number of criminal convictions have been reversed on appeal (Edmond, 2002), partially on the basis of problems associated with the use of scientific evidence adduced by the prosecution during the trial, we propose to explore the contribution of forensic science in this context using two case examples that we believe cover most of the issues and will serve as a basis for a more general discussion. They both involve an appreciable contribution of forensic science as inculpatory and exculpatory evidence.
In May 1996, a delicate, deaf, elderly woman was smothered with a pillow at her home in Huddersfield by a burglar who had forced his entry through a transom window. When the scene was examined, ear prints were found on the window pane immediately below the transom window that had been forced. The inquiry revealed that the windows had been cleaned three or four weeks