I used to write a lot about junk science in civil cases. I have never really liked the idea of limitations on liability awards as a solution for nutty civil rulings -- after all, how can Congress know in advance exactly what real damages will arise, and why should my ability to recover real damages be capped?
I always have felt that such solutions were beside the point, that what tort law needed was:
- Better immunization against junk science
- A rollback of the flawed notion that deep pockets are automatically liable, regardless of their actions, combined with some acknowledgment of individual responsibility
- Protection of dependents from nuisance suits and mass torts, both of which derive their power from the cost of defense rather than the facts of the case, forcing the innocent to settle just to avoid these defense costs.
I always had naively thought that the junk science issues were mainly limited to civil courts, and that criminal courts, with their much stronger protections against false convictions, did not really have these problems.
The more I read Radley Balko, though, the more depressed I get about innocent people sitting in jail as the result of really flawed evidence. The most recent example:
Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free...
At least two other men suffered the same fate "” and another shared link: a dog.
Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.
Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.