Soren FrederiksenSchool of Public Policy and Administration
Office: 126 McLaughlin
Phone: 416-736-2100 Ext: 33459
Primary website: www.yorku.ca/sdfred
Courts are often asked to make determinations as to the validity of scientific evidence, yet they lack the specialized expertise and general scientific knowledge possessed by scientists, making it difficult for them to make appropriate admissibility decisions about scientific evidence. My work has focused on this problem and in particular on the difficulties involved in making admissibility decisions about science and forensic science in criminal trials.
Many solutions to the problem of making valid admissibility decisions have been proposed. Some solutions are problematic because they impose on scientific experts notions of science that do not accurately reflect scientific practice, yet other solutions seem to lack any coherent notion of science. These approaches characterize this sort of courtroom decision-making as legal decision-making about science.
My work suggests that courtroom decisions about science are better characterized as scientific decision-making and the problem is re-envisaged as a problem of scientific evaluation in a legal setting. This change has consequences for both our understanding of how courts currently evaluate scientific expertise and for future law reform in this area. By approaching scientific evidence in this way we can begin to apply to these courtroom decisions a body of empirical research and well-developed theory coming from the field of science and technology studies that is devoted in part to understanding how scientists understand and evaluate each other's work.
My work has involved applying this approach to a series of case studies in the area of criminal forensics, including case studies of fingerprinting, DNA profiling, and polygraphy, which have been treated as examples of scientific controversies. This work has been greatly influenced by scholars in science and technology studies and I have taken an interdisciplinary approach in seeking to bring together these empirical understandings of scientific practice with legal scholarship.
I see my work as contributing to a developing body of scholarship where scientific and technology studies approaches are applied to courtroom decision-making.
Area of SpecializationDr.
PhD, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
MA, Carleton University
LLB, University of British Columbia
BSc Biology (Minor in History), McGill University
Research Interests:Law , Science and Technology , Public Policy, Science Policy
Current Research Projects
Project Type: Funded
- An Actor Network Study of Fingerprinting in Canada
This study is intened to be an extension of work originally started in my Master's thesis. It is intended that this research will yield a paper or a book chapter. In my Master's thesis, I noted that "The North-American fingerprint expert was born a policeman and fingerprints were initially "sold" to the police as an effective identification tool." The initial purpose for which fingerprinting was developed was not to solve crimes but rather as a replacement for more crumbersome techiques already in place for the identification of incarcerated prisoners. However, in the early twentieth century, the notion of using latent fingerprints to solve crimes was developed and fingerprinting became not only a prisoner identification technique but also what we would properly call a technique of forensic science. In this project, I would like to expand upon the initial work I did for my Master's thesis and tease out the process by which fingerprinting became translated from an identification technique to a crime-solving technique in Canada in the early twentieth century. This involves the expansion of what had been a largely descriptive legal history study into an actor-network study of the early history of fingerprinting in Canada.
Project Type: Funded
Junior Faculty Fund
“Brain Fingerprint or Lie Detector: Does Canada’s Polygraph Jurisprudence Apply to Emerging Forensic Neuroscience Technologies?” Information and Communications Technology Law[ Vol. 20 No. 2, June 2011
"Case Comment: The Trial of William Palmer, a Mid-Nineteenth Century English Scientific Evidence Case" (2011) Journal of Law, Information and Science 21(1) Forthcoming, 18 pp. http://www.jlisjournal.org/abstracts/frederiksen.20.1.html
“The National Academy of Sciences, the Canadian DNA Jurisprudence and Changing Forensic Practice” Manitoba Law Journal Fall 2011, forthcoming