Accuracy of Evidence in Criminal Cases

Preventing wrongful convictions by improving and fundamentally reforming how scientists, the public, judges, lawyers, and jurors understand evidence presented in court

Improving the Use of Forensic Evidence

Scientific evidence plays an increasing role in criminal cases, including traditional forensic methods, such as fingerprint and firearms comparisons, but also new ways of evaluating DNA. But how accurate and effective is this evidence? And do jurors, lawyers, and judges fully understand its implications? The Center works on research and policies that improve forensic methods and the reliability of forensic evidence used in court.

evidence bag and test tubes

Preventing Eyewitness Misidentification

Eyewitness misidentifications are a leading cause of wrongful convictions, yet this type of evidence continues to be used in large numbers of criminal cases. We work on identifying reliable ways of using eyewitness evidence and better ways to inform lawyers, judges, and jurors about the limitations of this type of evidence.

7 men standing side by side holding numbers 1-7

Safeguarding Against Coerced or False Confessions

A person's confession can be very powerful evidence in court, but innocent people can confess under police pressure. The Center studies false confessions and works on model police policies, including through the American Law Institute, aimed at preventing false confessions.

close up of a person's hands on a table in handcuffs. The hands of someone else, not cuffed, are across the table

Reforming the Use of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are often known as “black box AI” because of their complexity and lack of transparency, and courts have only begun to evaluate these systems. The Center advocates policies, including regulations, to require that open or "glass box AI" be used in criminal cases.

overhead shot of crowd of people walking on a street. Overlaid are shining lines and dots to suggest facial recognition software being used.

Informing the Judicial System through the Amicus Lab

A wide range of cases raise novel scientific issues, which judges can struggle to resolve. One way to provide courts with independent, evidence-based information and insight into complex scientific issues is through filing friend of the court briefs, known as amicus curiae briefs. The Wilson Center submits amicus briefs in state and federal appellate courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court where independent expert views may play a useful role.

close up of a table with people sitting around it writing on notebooks and laptops. A judge's gavel is in the foreground.