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Kumho, Daubert, and the Nature of Scientific Inquiry: Implications for Forensic Anthropology

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In the last 15 years, the US Supreme Court has implemented major changes concerning the admittance of expert testimony. In 1993, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals superseded the Frye ruling in federal courts and established judges, not the scientific community, as the gatekeepers regarding the credibility of scientific evidence. In 1999, a lesser-known but equally important decision, Kumho Tire v. Carmichael, ruled that technical expert testimony needed to employ the same rigor as outlined in Daubert, but experts can develop theories based on observations and apply such theories to the case before the court. Anthropology has never been defined as a hard science. Yet, many recent publications have modified existing techniques to meet the Daubert criteria, while none have discussed the significance of Kumho to anthropological testimony. This paper examines the impact of Daubert and Kumho on forensic anthropology and illustrates areas of anthropological testimony best admitted under Kumho’s guidance.
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Keywords: Daubert; Federal Rules of Evidence; Kumho; expert testimony; forensic anthropology; forensic science; identification; taphonomy; trauma assessment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, MSC01 1040, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001.

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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