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

48 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2007 Last revised: 17 May 2014

Valerie P. Hans

Cornell University - School of Law

David H. Kaye

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law

Erin Farley

University of Delaware

Stephanie Albertson

University of Delaware

B. Michael Dann

Independent

Date Written: October 29, 2007

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.

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1025582 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1025582

Valerie P. Hans (Contact Author)

Cornell University - School of Law ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-0095 (Phone)

David H. Kaye

Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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)

Paper statistics

Downloads
368
Rank
64,390
Abstract Views
3,148