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Expert Witness System in Japan & the United States

  • Wilf Hall, 5th Floor Conference Room (512) 139 MacDougal Street New York, New York, 10012 (map)

Expert Witness System in Japan & the United States

About the Presentation

Forensic science is one of the primary causes of wrongful conviction and also an essential tool for exoneration. The fair and correct use of forensic science is necessary to prevent a defendant from being convicted erroneously and relieve the convicted innocent people.

After the “innocence revolution” by sparked by the scientific power of DNA, various reforms regarding forensic science have taken place in the United States. Federal and state law include provisions about post-conviction DNA test. The obligation of the government to preserve biological evidence has also begun to be standardized. Additionally, some states have established a committee or board to oversee their forensic laboratories and have been trying to standardize the practice and started a training program for investigators and lawyers.

Meanwhile in Japan, there is no sign of such kind of reform. The investigation agency almost monopolizes resources of forensic science expertise. The opportunity to scrutinize the sample from the crime scene and rebut a prosecutor's expert witness is not ensured to the defendant sufficiently in Japan. Post-conviction DNA test is in the discretion of the court.

Professor Tokunaga will discuss where the difference between these two countries come from as well as the ideal system for forensic science in the criminal procedure.

About the Speaker

Ms. Hikaru Tokunaga is a Professor of Law at Dokkyo University, Saitama, Japan. She has been teaching criminal procedure law for about 15 years. She received her LL.B, M.A. in Law, and Ph.D. (Law) from Hitotsubashi University. Her main research interest is in the appropriate usage of the scientific knowledge in criminal trials from the perspective of preventing the wrongful convictions. She has been researching the standard of admissibility of scientific evidence (including psychology), defendant’s right to consult experts and to test samples independently, as well as the issues of sample preservation and chain of custody. She compared Japanese system concerning above topics to the system of the U.S. and wrote many papers. She is a board member of Japan Society for Law and Psychology since 2013 and a board member of Innocence Project Japan since 2017.

Earlier Event: February 11
Asia Law Weekly: Ren Ito
Later Event: February 21
Asia Law Weekly: Peter Dutton