The Admissibility of 'Probability Evidence' in Criminal Trials - Part I
4 Pages Posted: 30 May 2009
Date Written: 1986
This article examines the confusion that can confound courts in understanding a certain kind of probability (called a P-value) that can be helpful in evaluating the significance of statistical evidence in criminal trials, particularly when it is used as a measure of the probative value of identification evidence - things like bloodstains, hair fibers, fingerprints and forged documents.
This article confirms the initial skepticism about the appropriateness of probability calculations in the evaluation of this kind of nonquantitative evidence by examining the early instances of probability evidence in criminal trials, but concludes by arguing that the mathematics of probability has important applications to forensic proof and thus is becoming more common. Some courts oppose this probability evidence completely, while others uncritically admit it, thus exposing the need for a middle road.
Keywords: Probability Evidence, Criminal Trial, Statistical Evidence
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