If we analyze the issue of expert scientific evidence during the last thirty years, we would see the obvious treatment of confessions and unlawfully or unfairly obtained evidence that has been matters of anxious concern no less in other common law jurisdictions than in England itself. Whereas in the United States various approaches to novel evidence have been adopted which cannot be a comparative treatise, unless one is aware of all those approaches that U.S has adopted from European countries particularly the UK.
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The major difference can be evaluated from the fact that expert witnesses have been used for centuries in Europe, while in the United States, the concept was rare until the 1920s, when the Supreme Court had been cautious in using experts and limited their cross-examination, which was perceived as a waste of time, exhausting and confusing to the court and jury instead of clarifying the issues at hand (Daou & Soper, 2004, p. 13).
UK approach in English courts, at least in criminal cases, is followed by pragmatically reasoning and unlike American courts are less inclined towards theoretical reference to theory or principle. Furthermore, there are underlying policy goals that are often similar but may diverge in ways that would prompt a different result when legal principles and objections are applied in UK courts from that which would obtain in a US court. So the major difference between the two nations’ approaches exists in the methodology of utilizing shreds of evidence.
In English courts, the emphasis is upon practical implications while in the U.S judges contemplate upon the principles that lie behind the various rules and discretionary powers governing confessions, unlawfully or unfairly obtained evidence, or the right to silence in the police station. The concept of witness immunity originated in English common law to encourage open and honest testimony without fear of reprisals or subsequent lawsuits based on the testimony provided which later was adopted by the American judicial system.
Although the Daubert decision in 1993 by the U.S Supreme Court altered the rules for expert witnesses in federal court, federal courts were supposed to permit expert witnesses to proffer scientific evidence at trial only and that even in condition if the scientific principles involved were generally accepted within their field (Nowicki, 2004). The Daubert case is an example where one can analyze the restrictive boundaries suggested by the U.S Supreme Court are incompatible with modern rules of evidence.
On the other hand, Good (2004) suggests that expert witnesses in the UK must be provisional to differentiate between experts and other witnesses in courts as UK experts’ opinion depends on how much weight does the court attaches to their evidence? (Good, 2004) UK courts do realize the practical significance of referring to experts, and they themselves can still lay claim to expert status by confirming that they see their primary duty as being to the court, but such a practical opinion still lacks the depth of accepting an ‘evidence expert’.
Today the UK justice system is far ahead of the U.S where justice is a mass of conflicts and contradictions which though admits the significance of being impartial in forensic process dearth any such thing as the impartiality of evidence (Zonderman, 1999, p. 231). With the advancement in forensic science, the tools of scientific crime solving and crime prevention along with the approaches of legal truth-seeking get better all the time, it is apparent that their use is not as good as it could be. The U.S. dilemma is not just the slow process in most forensic evidence, both law enforcement and impoverished defendants often lack the training, personnel, and money to fully utilize the powers of forensic science, criminality techniques, and new technologies.
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Daou F. Suhu & Soper G. Jeffrey, (2004) Effective Expert Witnessing: Practices for the 21st Century: CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL.
Good Anthony, (2004) “Undoubtedly an Expert? Anthropologists in British Asylum Courts” In: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Volume: 10. Issue: 1.
Nowicki G. Henry, (2004) “Expert Witnesses Need to Know about the New Risks” In: Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume: 112. Issue: 2.
Zonderman Jon, (1999) Beyond the Crime Lab: The New Science of Investigation: John Wiley & Sons: New York.