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Helping formulate propositions in forensic DNA analysis

Abstract

The Bayesian paradigm is the preferred approach to evidence interpretation. It requires the evaluation of the probability of the evidence under at least two propositions. The value of the findings (i.e., our LR) will depend on these propositions and the case information, so it is crucial to identify which propositions are useful for the case at hand. Previously, a number of principles have been advanced and largely accepted for the evaluation of evidence. In the evaluation of traces involving DNA mixtures there may be more than two propositions possible. We apply these principles to some exemplar situations. We also show that in some cases, when there are no clear propositions or no defendant, a forensic scientist may be able to generate explanations to account for observations. In that case, the scientist plays a role of investigator, rather than evaluator. We believe that it is helpful for the scientist to distinguish those two roles.

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