forensic science evidence
Courts | Evidence | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections | Social Psychology | Statistics and Probability
The probative value of forensic science evidence (such as a shoeprint) varies widely depending on how the evidence and hypothesis of interest is characterized. This paper uses a likelihood ratio (LR) approach to identify the probative value of forensic science evidence. It argues that the "evidence" component should be characterized as a "reported match," and that the hypothesis component should be characterized as "the matching person or object is the source of the crime scene sample." This characterization of the LR forces examiners to incorporate risks from sample mix-ups and examiner error into their match statistics. But how will legal decision makers respond to this new characterization of a match statistic? An experiment with 315 juryeligible jurors who received a shoeprint match statistic in a burglary case finds that, contrary to normative theory, people are more persuaded by a statistic that ignores various error risks than by a more probative statistic that expressly takes those risks into account. The experiment also finds that jurors are relatively unresponsive to exposure of those risks by a defense attorney on cross-examination. These results support and extend previous research that finds many people are confused about how to evaluate the risk of error in forensic match statistics.
Koehler, Jonathan, "If the Shoe Fits They Might Acquit: The Value of Forensic Science Testimony" (2011). Faculty Working Papers. 23.