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Misleading DNA Evidence

  • ID: 2784414
  • Book
  • June 2014
  • 100 Pages
  • Elsevier Science and Technology
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Misleading DNA Evidence: A Guide for Scientists, Judges, and Lawyers presents the reasons miscarriages of justice can occur when dealing with DNA, what the role of the forensic scientist is throughout the process, and how judges and lawyers can educate themselves about all of the possibilities to consider when dealing with cases that involve DNA evidence.

DNA has become the gold standard by which a person can be placed at the scene of a crime, and the past decade has seen great advances in this powerful crime solving tool. But the statistics that analysts can attach to DNA evidence often vary, and in some cases the statistical weight assigned to that match, can vary enormously. The numbers provided to juries often overstate the evidence, and can result in a wrongful conviction. In addition to statistics, the way the evidence is collected, stored and analyzed can also result in a wrongful conviction due to contamination.

This book reviews high-profile and somewhat contentious cases to illustrate these points, including the death of Meredith Kercher. It examines crucial topics such as characterization of errors and determination of error rates, reporting DNA profiles and the source and sub-source levels, and the essentials of statement writing. It is a concise, readable resource that will help not only scientists, but legal professionals with limited scientific backgrounds, to understand the intricacies of DNA use in the justice system.

  • Ideal reference for scientists and for those without extensive scientific backgrounds
  • Written by one of the pioneers in forensic DNA typing and interpretation of DNA profiling results
  • Ideal format for travel, court environments, or wherever easy access to reference material is vital

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1. Definitions: Contamination and Interpretation
2. A Deep Analysis of the Basic Causes of Interpretation Errors
3. A Framework to Interpret "Trace-DNA” Evidence Transfer
4. National DNA Databases, Strength of Evidence and Error Rates
5. Concluding Remarks: Illustrated by the Case of the Death of Merdith Kercher
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Gill, Peter
Dr. Peter Gill joined the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in 1982. He began his research into DNA in 1985, collaborating with Sir Alec Jeffreys of Leicester University. In the same year they published the first demonstration of the forensic application of DNA profiling. In 1987, Dr. Gill was given an award under the civil service inventor's scheme for discovery of the preferential sperm DNA extraction technique and the development of associated forensic tests. He was employed as Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Forensic Science Service (FSS). Currently, he hold concurrent positions at Oslo University Hospital and the University of Oslo where he is Professor of Forensic Genetics.

In 1993-4, Dr. Gill was responsible for leading the team which confirmed the identity of the remains of the Romanov family, murdered in 1918, and also the subsequent investigation which disproved the claim of Anna Anderson to be the Duchess Anastasia (using tissue preserved in a paraffin wax block for several decades). This was an early example of an historical mystery that was solved by the analysis of very degraded and aged material, and was one of the first demonstrations of low-template DNA analysis.

Low-template DNA
In relation to the above, Dr. Gill was responsible for developing a routine casework-based 'super-sensitive' method of DNA profiling that was capable of analysing DNA profiles from a handful of cells. This method was originally known as low-copy-number (LCN) DNA profiling. Now it is known as Low template DNA profiling. New statistical methods and thinking were also developed to facilitate the new methods.

National DNA database
Dr. Gill was responsible for leading the team that developed the first multiplex DNA systems to be used in a National DNA database anywhere in the world, and for the design of interpretation methods that are in current use (c.1995).
Court reporting: Dr. Gill has been involved with giving evidence in several high profile (controversial) cases - including the Doheny / Adams appeals, and the Omagh bombing trial in the UK.

Membership of scientific societies
Currently, Dr. Gill is a member of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes and ex-chair of the 'methods, analysis and interpretation sub-section' He is chair of the International society for forensic genetics DNA commission on mixtures and has written a number of ISFG recommendations on low-template, mixture interpretation and evaluation of evidence that are highly cited. D. Gill is a member of the European DNA Profiling Group (EDNAP). He has published more than 200 papers in the international scientific literature which have been cited more than 20,000 times - many of these are collaborative papers under the auspices of ISFG, EDNAP and ENFSI. He is the recipient of the 2013 Scientific Prize of the International Society for Forensic Genetics.

Affiliations and Expertise
Forensic Genetics Research Group, Oslo University Hospital; Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Norwa
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