20 Current Issues Crim. Just. 337 (2008-2009)
Law's Looking Glass: Expert Identification Evidence Derived from Photogenic and Video Images

handle is hein.journals/cicj20 and id is 345 raw text is: Law's Looking Glass: Expert
Identification Evidence Derived from
Photographic and Video Images
Gary Edmond,* Katherine Biber,** Richard Kempt and Glenn Portert
This article offers a critical overview of expert identification evidence based on images. It
reviews the Australian case law and then, in an interdisciplinary manner, endeavours to
explain methodological, technical and theoretical problems with facial mapping evidence.
It suggests that extant admissibility jurisprudence and traditional safeguards associated
with expert opinion evidence and the adversarial trial might not adequately protect those
accused of committing criminal acts when they are confronted with incriminating expert
identification evidence.
Photography was present at the birth of the forensic sciences. Nineteenth century police and
pathologists used photographs to document crime scenes and preserve evidence (Beavan
2002; Baden & Roach 2002). Its use by Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) as a system for
recording anthropometric measurements, places it among the earliest of the modern
identification technologies (see e.g. Cole 2001; Hutchings 2001). Photographic and video
images continue to play important roles in criminal justice systems, particularly in the
investigation and prosecution of crime. Indeed, in recent decades the forensic use of images
has been proliferating. Yet, photographic and video evidence is fraught with dangers.
Images do not speak for themselves: they require interpretation. Critical writings have
cautioned us about using images to prove things (Sontag 1977; Barthes 1981; Sekula 1984;
Solomon-Godeau 1991; Tagg 1988, 1992; Biber 2007; Mnookin 1998; Golan 2004a;
Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. This research was partially supported by the Australian
Research Council (DP0771770) and forms part of a larger collaborative project. A version of this article was
presented to the College of Law, the Australian National University, 15 May 2008. Edmond is the lead author
and the other authors appear in alphabetical order.
Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney. A version of this article was presented at the Critical
Criminology Conference, Faculty of Law, UNSW, 17 June 2008.
Department of Psychology, UNSW. Kemp has acted as a defence expert in criminal cases. He has also been
engaged by applicants whose immigration status was challenged on the basis of facial mapping evidence. This
research was partially supported by the Australian Research Council (DP0881623 and LX0883067).
School of Natural Sciences, University of Western Sydney. Porter is Head of Program for the Bachelor of
Science (Forensic Science) degree at University of Western Sydney. He has conducted casework and research
into the reliability of photographic evidence. He recently presented the plenary lecture, on a related topic, to
the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences, Sydney, 28 May 2008.

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