The "Authenticity Crisis" In Real Evidence
November 2004

Authenticity, in the broad sense of the word, is fundamental to litigation. It acts as a dynamic—as the conceptual glue holding together the pieces of a case. As part of its most basic function, therefore, a jury constantly assesses authenticity. Once falsehood is detected, or truth perceived as misrepresented, a party’s case unravels. Indeed, tribunals could not serve their function without an ability to assess whether proffered assertions are what they “purport to be.”

Each type and piece of evidence must therefore be subject to a test for authenticity. The testimony of witnesses is a familiar example. Such evidence is examined for bias, for interest, and for the human capacity to exaggerate or mislead, among other things. Cross-examination, including the comparison of testimony with records of various types, is the chief tool by which we probe witnesses, whose genuineness or authenticity is usually called “credibility.”

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