Chapter | Law and Science | 2008

The Evidence Does Not Speak for Itself: Expert Witnesses and the Organization of DNA-Typing Companies

by Arthur A. Daemmrich

Abstract

During the past 15 years, new biotechnology companies have promoted DNA typing as a sophisticated criminal and paternity identification technique. Private testing laboratories produce results that link individuals with crime scenes and fathers to their children. Special problems of trust have arisen, because the domain of scientific practice termed 'DNA typing' emerged in a commercial context, and its results serve as the basis for expert witness testimony in contentious courtroom settings. Firms accordingly had to develop their own rules for legitimating truth-claims and standardizing and regulating laboratory practices. I argue here that the primary commodity crafted by DNA-typing companies—the courtroom credibility of DNA prints—required an intertwining of scientific authority, corporate practices, and the persona of the expert witness. This paper describes an actor-network coming into being and shows how credible institutions, organizations that manufacture integrity as their main sellable product, adopted a vertically integrated structure in order to control the production of DNA evidence from the laboratory to the courtroom.

Keywords: Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Courts and Trials; Organizational Structure; Practice; Genetics; Science-Based Business; Trust; Commercialization; Vertical Integration;

Citation:

Daemmrich, Arthur A. "The Evidence Does Not Speak for Itself: Expert Witnesses and the Organization of DNA-Typing Companies." Chap. 12 in Law and Science. Vol. 1, edited by Susan S. Silbey, 367–398. England: Ashgate Publishing, 2008.