Using Bayesian networks to guide the assessment of new evidence in an appeal case.
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When new forensic evidence becomes available after a conviction there is no systematic framework to help lawyers to determine whether it raises sufficient questions about the verdict in order to launch an appeal. This paper presents such a framework driven by a recent case, in which a defendant was convicted primarily on the basis of audio evidence, but where subsequent analysis of the evidence revealed additional sounds that were not considered during the trial. The framework is intended to overcome the gap between what is generally known from scientific analyses and what is hypothesized in a legal setting. It is based on Bayesian networks (BNs) which have the potential to be a structured and understandable way to evaluate the evidence in a specific case context. However, BN methods suffered a setback with regards to the use in court due to the confusing way they have been used in some legal cases in the past. To address this concern, we show the extent to which the reasoning and decisions within the particular case can be made explicit and transparent. The BN approach enables us to clearly define the relevant propositions and evidence, and uses sensitivity analysis to assess the impact of the evidence under different assumptions. The results show that such a framework is suitable to identify information that is currently missing, yet clearly crucial for a valid and complete reasoning process. Furthermore, a method is provided whereby BNs can serve as a guide to not only reason with incomplete evidence in forensic cases, but also identify very specific research questions that should be addressed to extend the evidence base and solve similar issues in the future.