Science in the jury box: Jurors' comprehension of mitochondrial DNA evidence

Valerie P. Hans, David H. Kaye, B. Michael Dann, Erin J. Farley, Stephanie Albertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Questions about how jurors understand and apply scientific evidence were addressed in a mock jury study in which 480 jury pool members watched a videotaped mock trial that included expert testimony about mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evidence purportedly linking a defendant to a crime. Collectively, jurors showed moderately good comprehension of the mtDNA evidence, although some made definitional and inferential errors. Comprehension was better among jurors with higher educational attainment and more mathematics and science courses. Lower comprehension was associated with jurors' reservations about science and concerns about the contamination of mtDNA evidence. The results suggest that most jurors are capable of comprehending and employing scientific evidence presented during trial, although errors and doubts about the evidence should be anticipated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalLaw and human behavior
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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