October 19 (1 pm to 5 pm) and October 20 (all day – 9 am to 5 pm).

Forensic evidence, from DNA to fingerprints to ballistics, has never been more important in criminal cases.  Actually litigating scientific evidence in the courtroom can be challenging and requires some specialized skills.

We are excited to offer a short course, with CLE credit pending approval, at the Duke University School of Law, in Durham, North Carolina.

The course is free and open to a small number of practicing criminal lawyers.  Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are encouraged to attend.  The course will be open to fifteen Duke Law students.  The course will be most valuable for lawyers with some criminal experience, but without much experience litigating forensic science issues.

The course will be a practicum: a scientific evidence trial advocacy course centered around a simulated case involving a fingerprint match.  On the afternoon of Saturday, October 19, we will provide an overview of how fingerprint evidence is analyzed, recent developments in the fingerprint field, and current issues at the intersection of forensic science and the courtroom.  Each participant will be given the role of either prosecutor or defense attorney, and all will meet to prepare together for Sunday October 20 – a full day of simulated forensic litigation.  Participants will be provided with readings and materials in advance of the course, including a “trial file” containing documents obtained through discovery in this mock case (e.g. forensic reports, laboratory files, and expert CVs), as well as trial exhibits and background materials to assist in preparing for trial (e.g. hearing and trial transcripts, excerpts of recent reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology).  During the simulations, participants will interview the fingerprint expert who authored the mock report, qualify the expert, conduct direct and cross-examination of the fingerprint expert, and present short closings. We will stop in between each session to exchange feedback and talk about what worked and what did not.

We ask that you apply to take the course, since enrollment is limited to a small number of participants.  To apply please email the instructors at bgarrett@law.duke.edu and katephilpott@gmail.com.  Please include a CV and note any background interest and experience in litigating forensics issues. 

About the Instructors

Brandon L. Garrett joined the Duke Law faculty in 2018 as the inaugural L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law.  Garrett is the Director of the Center for Science and Justice at Duke Law, and he is part of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE).  Garrett previously was the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs and Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia.  His research on our criminal justice system has ranged from the lessons to be learned from cases where innocent people were exonerated by DNA tests, to research on false confessions, forensics, and eyewitness memory, to the difficult compromises that prosecutors reach when targeting the largest corporations.  He teaches scientific evidence and forensic evidence courses and is conducting research on how forensics are perceived by jurors and on how to improve forensic analyses.  His books include “Convicting the Innocent,” published in 2011, “Too Big to Jail,” published in 2014, “Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-Conviction Litigation,” published in 2014, and “End of its Rope,” published in 2017.

Kate Philpott is a scientific and legal consultant specializing in strategic litigation related to the forensic sciences. In that role she advises individuals and organizations with respect to case-specific and systemic forensic issues and trains attorneys, investigators and forensic analysts regarding the same. Previously, she was the forensic staff attorney for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and before that, a litigation associate at Covington & Burling. Philpott is also engaged in forensic reform efforts, including serving on the American Academy of Forensic Science Standard Board’s Firearms and Toolmarks Consensus Body, the Human Factors Subcommittee of the National Commission on Forensic Science and the Forensic Disciplines Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.


The class will meet at Duke Law in Durham, NC (https://law.duke.edu/about/visit/) in rooms 4046 and 4049 (the moot courtroom).  The course is free.  However, travel expenses and housing will not be provided.  Some meals will be provided.  We will provide more detailed information about the schedule and email the course materials to all who are enrolled.

This course is made possible with the support of the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Science (CSAFE) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).