Title

Subjectivity and Bias in Forensic DNA Mixture Interpretation

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1-2011

Abstract

The objectivity of forensic science decision making has received increased attention and scrutiny. However, there are only a few published studies experimentally addressing the potential for contextual bias. Because of the esteem of DNA evidence, it is important to study and assess the impact of subjectivity and bias on DNA mixture interpretation. The study reported here presents empirical data suggesting that DNA mixture interpretation is subjective. When 17 North American expert DNA examiners were asked for their interpretation of data from an adjudicated criminal case in that jurisdiction, they produced inconsistent interpretations. Furthermore, the majority of 'context free' experts disagreed with the laboratory's pre-trial conclusions, suggesting that the extraneous context of the criminal case may have influenced the interpretation of the DNA evidence, thereby showing a biasing effect of contextual information in DNA mixture interpretation.