Can science serve justice better?


By 2015, Kathleen Folbigg’s legal team had exhausted all avenues to appeal her convictions for killing her four children.

But then, new forensic analyses of the four post-mortems suggested there was no proof that any had been suffocated.

And in 2021, a new study investigating a unique gene variant possessed only by Folbigg and her two daughters, had scientists suggesting a reason for the girls’ sudden deaths.

The only way these new findings could be heard was for the New South Wales governor to open a special inquiry.

In fact, two inquiries have now taken place, including one prompted by a petition signed by 90 scientists.

Can justice keep up with science

Some say there should be a better way for science to be heard in the justice system.

Anna-Maria Arabia, chief executive of the Australian Academy of Science, thinks the Folbigg case could open the door to refine the way unique, even unprecedented scientific research leads to case review, and improve the way expert scientists are selected to appear at trials.

Cosmos journalist Matthew Agius has followed the Folbigg inquiry’s proceedings and spoke to Arabia about her views in this episode of Cosmos Insights.

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