San Diego Law Review


Laurel Gilbert

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



This Comment proposes that because of ongoing concerns regarding the reliability and validity of forensic science in the United States, the Due Process Clause constitutionally mandates the appointment of forensic experts for indigent defendants in criminal cases arising out of a child’s death if the prosecution relies on forensic evidence. Part II of this Comment provides an overview of the current law governing the admissibility of forensic expert testimony in criminal cases and explains why these admissibility standards create a need for the appointment of defense forensic experts to protect the rights of criminal defendants. Part III then discusses Due Process Clause jurisprudence on the necessity of appointing defense experts in criminal cases and the absence of an established right to state-funded defense experts for indigent defendants. In light of criminal defendants’ lack of access to state-appointed experts, Part IV examines child death cases wherein the prosecution relied on forensic experts to establish the child’s cause of death and explores the unique ways in which access to defense experts is critical to building an adequate defense in these cases. In Part V, I conclude that in the unique context of child death cases built on prosecutorial forensic evidence, due process mandates the appointment of defense experts for defendants who cannot afford to hire them.