Our Voices

"Evidence on Fire": Fire Science Evidence Reviewed

Fire science, a field largely developed by lay “arson” investigators, police officers or similar first responders untrained in chemistry and physics, has been historically dominated by unreliable methodology, demonstrably false conclusions, and concomitant miscarriages in justice. As science-proficient commentators have noted, “fire scene investigators are subject to very little proficiency training, and the field’s requirements call for no more than a high school education.” Perhaps surprisingly, courts have largely spared many of the now-debunked tenets of fire investigation any serious scientific scrutiny in criminal arson cases. This Article contrasts the courts ongoing lax admissibility of unreliable fire science evidence in criminal cases with their strict exclusion of the same flimsy evidence in civil cases notwithstanding that both criminal and civil courts are required to operate under the same expert evidence exclusionary rules. 

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