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ISSN 2611-8858


Forensic Evidence

The Disagreement Among Expert Witnesses in the Criminal Trial: Epistemic Profiles and Judicial Evaluation

The problem of disagreement among expert witnesses is becoming increasingly relevant in the legal practice, as a result of the decisive role often played by expert knowledge in fact finding. Faced with disagreements of this kind, the judge is unable to competently evaluate the information provided by the experts and runs the risk of making epistemically arbitrary choices. The essay aims to contribute to the solution of this problem drawing on the epistemology of disagreement, a young and rapidly developing discipline that analyzes the effects of disagreement on the reliability of expert opinions. In particular, the essay distinguishes four kinds of disagreement among expert witnesses and critically examines the proposal to use the majority principle to address this problem. The essay then identifies the criteria that the judge should apply to evaluate the conflicting testimonies of the experts and the conditions under which an epistemic disagreement justifies the reasonable doubt of the judge with regard to the ascription of responsibility to the agent.

Ideas for a Reflection on the Relationship Between Biometrics and Criminal Trial

The paper aims to offer an overview of the main features of the biometric discipline and of some problems, emerging from its application in the criminal trial: starting from the necessary terminological clarifications, the biometric method will be presented taking into account the relative accuracy measures that the various systems of recognition may offer in different levels. It will also aim to illustrate the most widespread identification and authentication technologies, including fingerprints, face recognition, iris and retina measurement, voice, gait and genetic testing. Such biometric systems have certain practical advantages not only in private areas (from access to specific places to the use of various services) but also in the criminal trial, in terms of investigations and evidence. After describing the "state of the art" of scientific evidence, particular attention will be devoted to some potentially critical issues, emerging from the relationship between biometric science and the criminal trial. First of all, there is a terminological confusion, deriving from the lack of a single definition, both in literature and in the case-law, of the adjective "biometric". Secondly, to date there are still no unambiguous results in terms of reliability of such recognition techniques and an overall reflection should be started with regard to compatibility with constitutional principles and procedural safeguards.

The Reliability of Fingerprint Evidence

An important issue in forensic science is the question whether the method was reliably applied to the facts. In 2017, an appeals court in North Carolina did something largely noticed but remarkable: the court found that it was an error to admit fingerprint evidence in a criminal case. Twenty-six leading forensic analysts, statisticians, and researchers signed an amicus brief in the case, calling for stronger examination of the reliable application of fingerprint and other expert evidence. The goal was to emphasize to the state supreme court that only expert work that is reliably applied to the facts should be admitted at trial. The brief describes how wrongful convictions can and have resulted when forensic methods are poorly applied in criminal cases. Last Friday, the state supreme court declined review, allowing the appellate ruling in the case to stand.

Iudex peritus peritorum

Within the debate on specialist evidence, especially scientific evidence, the formula “Iudex peritus peritorum” is often evoked to express the idea of the evaluative autonomy reserved to the judge also in this area. However, not only does the idea differentiate itself into multiple variants which are difficult to discern, but it is not even clear which of them is compatible with the judicial epistemology accepted within our criminal system. This essay will attempt to address both problems. Having illustrated the general principles of specialist evidential reasoning along with the main ways in which the judge may contribute to its development, it will critically analyze the latter, considered these various forms of contribution as images of the iudex peritus peritorum.

DNA Evidence and the Amanda Knox Case: the Supreme Court Decision

A central role in the annulment of the conviction of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito has been played by some issues related to the interpretation of the DNA traces. This article focuses on some passages of the judgment delivered by the Court of Cassation, with specific reference to the use and evaluation of the genetic evidence.

La prova dell’alterazione alla guida: una comparazione tra Italia e Germania

Il presente contributo è il frutto di un lavoro di confronto tra la disciplina italiana e quella tedesca in materia di accertamento processuale dei reati di guida in stato di ebbrezza ed alterazione da droghe. Il parallelo muove dall’esame della normativa straniera, alla quale l’autrice giustappone quella interna, ravvisando man mano analogie e differenze. La diversa visione prospettica offre numerosi spunti di riflessione su temi spesso trascurati dal giurista italiano, due dei quali toccano punti nevralgici del processo penale: l’estensione accordata alla tutela del diritto contro le autoincriminazioni rispetto alle prove non dichiarative, da un lato; le regole di esclusione e valutazione della prova c.d. scientifica, dall’altro.

Accertamenti tecnici ed elemento soggettivo del reato

Il presente contributo si prefigge lo scopo di sottoporre alla riflessione giuridica il tema della consulenza tecnica (psicologico-forense) sull’elemento soggettivo del reato. L’analisi cercherà di distinguere le problematiche teoriche (circa lo specifico costrutto psicologico oggetto di indagine scientifica) da quelle metodiche e strumentali (relative alle possibili tecniche di applicazione). A tal fine si riporterà una breve casistica di consulenze che, ad avviso degli autori, sono già collocabili (anche se forse inconsapevolmente) all’interno di tale ambito di accertamento tecnico.