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The Champion

December 2012 , Page 12 

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Forensic DNA Statistics: Still Controversial In Some Cases

By William C. Thompson, Laurence D. Mueller, and Dan E. Krane

Although forensic DNA testing is well established, experts sometimes disagree about the interpretation and statistical characterization of test results. This article will describe the key controversies and will explain what lawyers need to know to recognize and deal with controversial types of DNA evidence.

When labs try to “type” samples that contain too little DNA, or DNA that is too degraded, the results of the DNA test can be unreliable. The test may fail to detect certain genetic characteristics (called alleles) of people who contributed DNA to the sample — a phenomenon called allelic drop out; the tests may falsely detect characteristics that did not come from contributors — a phenomenon called allelic drop in; and the test results may be distorted in other ways that complicate interpretation.

Labs try to make allowances for these distortions when they deal with limited and degraded samples. Because two samples from the same person may (under these conditions) produce

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