A California lawmaker introduced a bill in the state Senate on Friday that aims to change expert testimony and forensic evidence legal standards. This bill seeks to make it easier for falsely accused individuals to challenge wrongful convictions.
Inaccurate expert testimony and faulty forensic science can lead to wrongful convictions. According to a report from UC Berkeley School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, erroneous convictions cost California taxpayers over $282 million between 1989 and 2012. Approximately 200 people in California wrongfully served jail sentences for serious crimes since 1989.
California Senator Scott Wiener introduced Senate Bill 243 on Friday. The bill seeks to expand the definition of false evidence to include expert opinions “that are undermined by scientific research that existed at the time of the expert’s testimony.” False evidence would also include opinions for which there is a reasonable dispute as to methodology or theory validity within the relevant scientific community.
A court in any criminal proceeding would be required to determine whether, when considering expert testimony, the expert’s opinion and any underlying materials are “based on a reliable foundation, proper methodology, and sound logic.” Courts would not be allowed to rely upon any opinion or underlying materials that lack these three things.
The bill may be acted upon on or after February 21.