Final Thoughts and Future Directions

We structured the organization of our chapter to address separately the roles of science and technology in legal proceedings. Clearly, however, science and technology are interdependent. As both fields continue to evolve both outside and within the law, we can expect jurors to confront new hybrids of science and technology in court. For example, in 1996 a chief judge in the US District Court of Northern Alabama appointed a neutral panel of four scientists (later referred to as the National Science Panel) to evaluate the scientific merit of claims that silicon breast implants cause chronic disease (Judson, 1999). The National Science Panel reported its findings in 1998 and submitted lengthy videotape depositions for use in subsequent breast implant litigation in federal courts (Breyer, 2000).

The fusion of science, technology, and the law illustrated here raises a variety of new questions worthy of empirical and legal attention. Does videotaped expert testimony increase or decrease jurors' comprehension of scientific evidence compared to live expert testimony? If either form of expert scientific testimony is easier for jurors to comprehend, do those differences affect jurors' verdicts and, if so, how? Legal questions include whether courts will rule that videotaped summaries and evaluations of large bodies of research (such as those provided by the National Science Panel) 'fit' the facts of subsequent litigation and therefore are admissible if reliable. If courtroom testimony is required to supplement the videotaped depositions, will one panel member be allowed to testify on the panel's behalf or will all members be required to appear in court? Answers to questions such as these should help courts to use science and technology in a manner that best enhances jury decision-making without compromising defendants' rights.

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