Scientific Evidence in Courts-Martial: From the General Acceptance Standard to the Relevancy Approach   [open pdf - 6MB]

In courts-martial today, the use of a wide variety of scientific evidence has become routine. Counsel for either side may offer fingerprint or blood type evidence to indicate identity. Trial counsel use chemical analysis of blood or urine to prove recent drug use or intoxication. Behavioral analysis of victims is presented routinely as evidence of rape trauma or battered child syndrome. Truthfulness, or the lack thereof, theoretically can be demonstrated by polygraph examinations. The use of other newer types of scientific evidence someday may become just as routine. Apparently, scientists can now provide identity to nearly a mathematical certainty using DNA analysis. The use of radioimmunoassay analysis of hair suggests that drug usage can be detected for months, even years, after ingestion. As science advances, ever more creative means of producing evidence undoubtedly will be developed. In recent years the standard for the admissibility of scientific evidence in courts-martial has undergone significant change. This change can be described as the replacement of the general acceptance standard with the relevancy approach. The purpose of this article is to examine the development and acceptance of the relevancy approach in the federal and military courts, analyze its meaning, and attempt to provide a working model for its application in courts-martial. However, before turning to that approach an understanding of its predecessor, the general acceptance standard, is necessary. The underlying rationale for the general acceptance theory remains a consideration under the relevancy approach

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Michael N. Schmitt: http://www.michaelschmitt.org
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Military Law Review (Fall 1990), v.130, p.135-169
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