The Champion

April 2007 , Page 26 

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Can Jury Trial Innovations Improve Jurror Understanding of DNA Evidence

By B. Michael Dann; Valerie P. Hans; David H. Kaye

A single spot of blood on a pink windowsill will tell investigators who broke a windowpane, turned a lock, and kidnapped two-year-old Molly Evans from her bedroom in the middle of the night. An expert witness will testify that the DNA profile of the blood evidence recovered from the windowsill was entered into CODIS, an electronic database of DNA profiles.1 That process yielded a “hit,” identifying the defendant as the most likely source of the blood inside Molly’s room.

But will jurors be able to understand the expert’s intricate analysis and use it to reach a verdict? And what — if any — steps can be taken to increase the comprehension of complex DNA evidence by jurors?

Questions such as these prompted a National Institute of Justice-funded study on the impact of jury trial innovations upon the understanding of contested mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evidence by mock jurors. By examining how jurors in different experimental conditions performed on a Juror Comp

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