National Academy of Sciences study finds that FBI’s anthrax evidence is inconclusive. Now to the voir dire

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If the origin of the anthrax cannot be determined conclusively through science, should a jury be able to conclude based on their assessment of non-scientific evidence that the anthrax originated from a suspect beyond a reasonable doubt? Likewise, should a jury simply ignore the other non-scientific evidence and conclude that the inconclusive scientific results constitute reasonable doubt?

If science cannot say whether something is true, should that conclusion of inconclusiveness simply be ignored, or that inconclusiveness itself be evidence?

The National Academy of Sciences has issued in report on the scientific validity and veracity of the FBI investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings in DC and New York that killed 5 people and injured 14 others.

The FBI investigation concluded that Dr. Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist and vaccinologist at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, was responsible for the anthrax attacks. Ivins committed suicide before charges were formally filed.

The NAS’s conclusion? “It is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the B. anthracis in the mailings based on the available scientific evidence alone.” The FBI response to the NAS study.

This is a classic example of the problem in perception between the role of science, the role of law, and the role of science in law. Science is the pursuit of grantstruth. Law is the pursuit of feesjustice. In science, something is true if it falls within a 95% confidence interval. In law, a hypothesis is true if 12 random peers of the defendant selected carefully and at great expense believe it is true “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The thresholds are different in science and law. The goals are different.

 

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