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NCJ Number: 136630 Find in a Library
Title: DNA Testing: Debate Update
Journal: Trial  Volume:28  Issue:4  Dated:special issue (April 1992)  Pages:52-61
Author(s): W C Thompson; S Ford
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 10
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: As the use of DNA fingerprinting has spread, so have scientific doubts about its accuracy and reliability. In a number of cases, pre-trial hearings on the admissibility of DNA evidence have featured arcane debates between experts in molecular biology, population genetics, and statistics. As a result, there have been conflicting court rulings on the issue.
Abstract: This article focuses on the procedures used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and major commercial laboratories, for example, Cellmark Diagnostics and Lifecodes. The DNA tests used involve three distinct steps: creating a DNA print or profile, determining whether or not the prints of different samples match, and computing the likelihood of a match. DNA testing has faced criticism on two levels. On one level, critics have raised doubts concerning the way tests have been presented in specific cases. The second level of criticism is more global, suggesting that there are fundamental problems that render the tests unreliable in all cases. The controversy centers around the interpretation of the results and the statistical computations used. As new DNA testing procedures are being developed, the legal and scientific communities should remember that scientific criticism of forensic innovations may be slow to develop and that the first academic scientists to testify in court do not necessarily represent the full spectrum of opinion. However, this debate will help to ensure that new forensic tests will live up to their promise. 19 notes
Main Term(s): DNA fingerprinting
Index Term(s): Expert witnesses; Forensic sciences
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