Journal of Institutional Economics

Research Article

Organization economics explains many forensic science errors


a1 Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, United States


Judge Posner (2010) has identified an important lacuna in law and economics, namely a tendency to ignore organization theory. I will apply the tools of organization theory to an area almost completely neglected in law and economics, forensic science. Posner points us to tools we should make use of; I am pointing to an application we have neglected. Forensic science today is characterized by a twofold monopoly. First, evidence is typically examined by one crime lab only. Second, that same lab will normally be the only one to offer an interpretation of the results of the examination it performs. Crime labs today are typically organized under law enforcement agencies, which may create conscious and unconscious biases in favor of police and prosecution. These organizational features of forensic science today encourage errors and wrongful convictions.


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I thank Maria Minniti and David Croson for comments and William C. Thompson for providing the images used in Figures 2 and 3.