Forensic DNA testing has seen the use of statistics in forensic science beginning with the start of DNA testing, only about 20 years ago. This is a new area for experts to educate lay juries in how to interpret what constitutes a “match” between two items of evidence.
How do we adapt our methods to a (possibly new kind of) statistical basis and (2) how do we best communicate statistical results to laypersons?
Yet, statistics can lead the inexperienced astray as this short lecture presented on the Internet on TED ® demonstrates. Using statistics to explain events is more difficult to understand then it first appears:
Some critics question the use of terms like unique, similar, and identical. Might statistics help laypersons to understand relationships between a known source and an evidence sample? For example, automobile paint collected at a hit and run matches a suspect vehicle. If a jury were told that this color paint is found in one in ten vehicles, would this be helpful information, rather then just stating, “the paint matches.”
What do you think the role of statistics is in trying to explain complex matters to lay juries should be? Does it help clarify or confuse matters?