More Justice Available via Science

The American criminal justice system is based on common sense.

What could be better evidence of who committed a rape than the victim’s pointing to a man and saying, “He did it! I’m 100% certain.” And doesn’t it make sense that when a woman says her father sexually molested her many times when she was small, she’s going to be right about that?

Law professor Adam Benforado thinks our criminal justice system depends too much on common sense. We can look to science, he argues, for a much better criminal justice system than the one we have.

Benforado mentions “untested assumptions about how memories work” as a problem in criminal cases.

And how!

In our firm we have seen many times the frailties of memory and its vulnerability to contamination. We see this especially in our cases where sex abuse has been reported by small children.

Fortunately, research psychologists have done hundreds of studies on children’s memory since outrageous convictions of day care workers swept the nation in the 1980’s. Those of us who defend the accused can bring the findings of those studies to court through testimony by psychologists.

But Benforado is surely right: there is still a lot of room for science to improve our justice system.