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The Role of Transcriptions in the Courtroom: A Scientific Evaluation

The past thirty-five years have seen a heated debate in both scientific and legal venues as to the proven accuracy of Forensic Voice Identification, which is now admissible in some jurisdictions but not in others. It is notable that there has been little, if any, scientific reporting on the common practice of allowing the use of transcriptions of difficult to understand recordings as aids to the trier of fact in court proceedings. The use of such transcripts, whether produced by "experts" or laypersons is discussed in the context of their potential for anonymously biasing the trier of fact. Signal Detection Theory shows that when subjective judgments are made in the presence of uncertainty, as is the case when trying to understand marginally intelligible recordings, the criterion of the decision maker can be significantly affected by external factors. When ruling on whether to allow transcripts of marginally intelligible recordings to be used as "aids" to the trier of fact, the Court should consider whether such "aids", rather that the recordings themselves will effectively become the evidence.

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