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Authors

Pooja Chaudhuri

Abstract

This Note explores the intersections of science and the law in trials involving DNA evidence. The DNA match process is a forensic technique used to identify unknown individuals by the characteristics of their DNA. This procedure is extremely useful in criminal cases where the identity of the perpetrator is in question. While use of DNA match evidence in criminal trials is on the rise, jurors are not equipped to understand complex and manipulable DNA probabilities. Specifically, there exist three impediments to juror comprehension. First, match statistics are incredibly difficult to understand unless jurors have a background in mathematics or statistics. Second, jurors are unaware of inherent biases, including the risk of false positive matches in DNA typing. Third, jurors are at a high risk of being carried away by the significance of a match because DNA has been touted as the gold standard of biometric evidence. Nevertheless, while DNA evidence does have drawbacks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges agree that it has improved accuracy in criminal trials.

Given these barriers, many scholars have grappled with the issue of how to increase juror comprehension, but few have been able to provide practical solutions. In that respect, this Note aims to bridge the gap between a normative and practical answer to the problem. Normatively, the ideal juror in DNA cases ought to be “bionic,” meaning that they will have ordinary cognitive powers enhanced by the help of electromechanical DNA typing devices. Because DNA trials are unique in their melding of science and law, the bionic juror represents a new, important standard of rationality. As a way to practically create the bionic juror, this Note proposes a set of cautionary DNA jury instructions to ensure that criminal defendants receive fair trials by rational jurors.

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Link to publisher version (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.15779/Z38183426H