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The Champion

May 2018 , Page 50 

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When DNA Is Not a Gold Standard: Failing to Interpret Mixture Evidence

By Mark W. Perlin, Ph.D., M.D., Ph.D.

Forensic science connects evidence through shared characteristics. Markings on a bullet can appear to match grooves in the barrel of a gun. Latent fingerprints left at a crime scene may be similar to ridge patterns on a suspect’s hand. Tracks in the mud may mirror the treads of a shoe or tire. Police gather forensic evidence to help build a case, and police dramas on television convey the myth of forensic infallibility through the “CSI” effect.1 

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published its seminal report titled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States.2 The NAS report reviewed many forensic modalities and questioned their scientific validity. The interpretation of forensic data is often unreliable. Match statistics are needed to gauge the strength of match between items, relative to coincidence. But forensic statistics are typically absent or incorrect. Human bias can skew answers by unconsciously selecting favorable data, using knowledge about defendant cha

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