The Expected Value Fallacy in State v. Wright

David H. Kaye

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

September 1, 2011

Jurimetrics, Vol. 51, No. 4, Fall 2011

In State v. Wright, 253 P.3d 838 (Mont. 2011), the Montana Supreme Court rejected a defendant's claim that allegedly false and misleading expert testimony and closing argument about the number of individuals with a particular DNA profile who lived in the state amounted to a violation of due process of law. However, the opinion does not adequately articulate the nature of the error in the testimony and is ambiguous in its discussion of the appropriate limits on the admission of DNA source-attribution testimony. This essay explains that the expert's testimony is an instance of an "expected value fallacy." This fallacy consists of thinking that the expected number of matching DNA profiles necessarily is the only plausible number of such profiles.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 5

Keywords: DNA evidence, forensic science, due process, random match probability, uniqueness, source attribution

JEL Classification: C10,C11

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Date posted: September 3, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Kaye, David H., The Expected Value Fallacy in State v. Wright (September 1, 2011). Jurimetrics, Vol. 51, No. 4, Fall 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1921082

Contact Information

David H. Kaye (Contact Author)
Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )
Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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