Sunday, August 28, 2005

Famous Last Words

Commenting on the release of Larry Peterson, one of Peterson's attorneys told a television reporter that witnesses lie but that DNA doesn't.

Do you suppose the attorney will say the same thing when the prosecution offers DNA evidence against a client represented by that attorney?

The statement is a nice example of rhetoric that trades on its literal accuracy but misleads. To wit: It is literally true that DNA cannot (as far as we know) intend to affirm the truth of a statement that it believes to be false -- or vice versa; but it is not true that DNA evidence is incapable of falsely pointing to innocence -- or, for that matter, guilt. See, e.g., Tillers on Evidence and Inference August 27, 2005.

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