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Science in the Jury Box: Jurors' Views and Understanding of Mitochondrial DNA Evidence


Valerie P. Hans


Cornell University - School of Law

David H. Kaye


The Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law

Erin Farley


University of Delaware

Stephanie Albertson


University of Delaware

B. Michael Dann


Independent

October 29, 2007

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-021

Abstract:     
Policy makers, pundits, and scholars have all raised questions about how jurors understand and apply scientific evidence. In the current study, 480 jury pool members observed a mock trial that included expert testimony about mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evidence purportedly linking a defendant to a crime. As a group, the jurors showed moderately good command of the biological facts relating to mtDNA evidence, although some jurors made errors in defining mtDNA and in making inferences about its relevance to the trial. Comprehension was higher after jury deliberation and among jurors with more education. A minority of jurors expressed reservations about science, concern about the reliability of the mtDNA evidence, and suspicion that the mtDNA evidence was contaminated.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

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Date posted: November 2, 2007 ; Last revised: May 17, 2014

Suggested Citation

Hans, Valerie P. and Kaye, David H. and Farley, Erin and Albertson, Stephanie and Dann, B. Michael, Science in the Jury Box: Jurors' Views and Understanding of Mitochondrial DNA Evidence (October 29, 2007). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-021. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1025582 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1025582

Contact Information

Valerie P. Hans (Contact Author)
Cornell University - School of Law ( email )
524 College Ave
Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-0095 (Phone)
David H. Kaye
The Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law ( email )
Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States
814 865-8974 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://law.psu.edu/faculty/resident_faculty/kaye
Erin Farley
University of Delaware ( email )
Newark, DE 19716
United States
Stephanie Albertson
University of Delaware ( email )
Department of Sociology & Criminal Justice
322 Smith Hall
Newark, DE 19716
United States
302-831-4420 (Phone)
B. Michael Dann
Independent ( email )
P.O. Box 2822
Williamsburg, VA 23187
United States
757-253-9845 (Phone)
757-253-9015 (Fax)
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