Volume 41, Issue 4 (July 1996)
Evaluating DNA Profile Evidence When the Suspect Is Identified Through a Database Search
The paper is concerned with the strength of DNA evidence when a suspect is identified via a search through a database of the DNA profiles of known individuals. Consideration of the appropriate likelihood ratio shows that in this setting the DNA evidence is (slightly) stronger than when a suspect is identified by other means, subsequently profiled, and found to match. The recommendation of the 1992 report of the US National Research Council that DNA evidence that is used to identify the suspect should not be presented at trial thus seems unnecessarily conservative. The widely held view that DNA evidence is weaker when it results from a database search seems to be based on a rationale that leads to absured conclusions in some examples. Moreover, this view is inconsistent with the principle, which enjoys substantial support, that evidential weight should be measured by likelihood ratios. The strength of DNA evidence is shown also to be slightly increased for other forms of search procedure. While the DNA evidence is stronger after a database search, the overall case against the suspect may not be, and the problems of incorporating the DNA with the non-DNA evidence can be particularly important in such cases.