In a Nassau, N.Y., battle over whether the study of false confessions should be accepted in court, a prosecution witness is accusing defense experts of sloppy science, Newsday reports. Judge Victor Ort must determine whether the defense’s experts on confessions can testify at a murder trial on how police can sometimes coerce false confessions.
The case also involves the novel issue of whether the study of microscopic lines on a hair, known as banding, is an acceptable science in court. The defense contends banding on a hair from the victim shows it was taken from her after death and planted by police. The case is a retrial of a defendant who was convicted of murder in 1986 and freed from prison in 2003 because of newly discovered DNA evidence. On the confession issue, Ebbe Ebbesen, a psychology professor at the University of California at San Diego, said defense psychologists limited their studies to known false confessions, so they have no basis to judge whether the same police questioning also can elicit true confessions.