Interpretation of DNA Evidence: Implications of Thresholds Used in the Forensic Laboratory
2014 (English)Conference paper, Poster (Other academic)
Evaluation of forensic evidence is a process lined with decisions and balancing, not infrequently with a substantial deal of subjectivity. Already at the crime scene a lot of decisions have to be made about search strategies, the amount of evidence and traces recovered, later prioritised and sent further to the forensic laboratory etc. Within the laboratory there must be several criteria (often in terms of numbers) on how much and what parts of the material should be analysed. In addition there is often a restricted timeframe for delivery of a statement to the commissioner, which in reality might influence on the work done. The path of DNA evidence from the recovery of a trace at the crime scene to the interpretation and evaluation made in court involves several decisions based on cut-offs of different kinds. These include quality assurance thresholds like limits of detection and quantitation, but also less strictly defined thresholds like upper limits on prevalence of alleles not observed in DNA databases. In a verbal scale of conclusions there are lower limits on likelihood ratios for DNA evidence above which the evidence can be said to strongly support, very strongly support, etc. a proposition about the source of the evidence. Such thresholds may be arbitrarily chosen or based on logical reasoning with probabilities. However, likelihood ratios for DNA evidence depend strongly on the population of potential donors, and this may not be understood among the end-users of such a verbal scale. Even apparently strong DNA evidence against a suspect may be reported on each side of a threshold in the scale depending on whether a close relative is part of the donor population or not. In this presentation we review the use of thresholds and cut-offs in DNA analysis and interpretation and investigate the sensitivity of the final evaluation to how such rules are defined. In particular we show what are the effects of cut-offs when multiple propositions about alternative sources of a trace cannot be avoided, e.g. when there are close relatives to the suspect with high propensities to have left the trace. Moreover, we discuss the possibility of including costs (in terms of time or money) for a decision-theoretic approach in which expected values of information could be analysed.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
DNA, traces recovery, extraction, typing
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Probability Theory and Statistics Law and Society
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118546OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-118546DiVA: diva2:815464
9th International Conference on Forensic Inference and Statistics (ICFIS2014)