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The Champion

May 2018 , Page 28 

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Opening the Black Box: Defendants’ Rights to Confront Forensic Software

By Stephanie J. Lacambra, Jeanna Matthews, and Kit Walsh

Despite this country’s commitment to fair and open trials, people are being convicted on the basis of secret computer code. When neither the public nor the accused is allowed to look at how the software operates, it undermines the legitimacy of the judicial system and can send innocent people to prison or to their execution.

Forensic software is used in the criminal justice context to make assertions about the presence and nature of DNA, to deploy police resources to certain areas, or to guide bail and sentencing determinations.

Software, however, is far from impartial or infallible. It is simply a set of instructions to a computer, programmed by fallible humans or trained on flawed historical data sets. Errors both intentional and unintentional are routinely discovered when independent experts are able to analyze these tools.

This article provides advice for understanding and confronting software-based evidence in criminal prosecutions. The advice falls primarily into two categories. Fir

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