The Probative Value of Forensic Science Evidence

24 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2009

Date Written: August 3, 2009


When a match is found between forensic science material recovered from a crime scene (e.g., a fingerprint, a strand of hair, a shoe print, etc.) and a reference sample provided by a suspect, the match is widely regarded as powerful evidence that the suspect is the source of the recovered material. However, the probative value of this evidence can vary widely depending on the way in which the evidence is characterized and the hypothesis of interest. This paper uses a likelihood ratio approach to probativity, and describes an experiment that tests whether mock jurors appreciate that the probative value of a reported match offered in support of one hypothesis may differ from the value of that same match when offered in support of another hypothesis.

Keywords: evidence, probative value, forensic science, error

Suggested Citation

Koehler, Jonathan J., The Probative Value of Forensic Science Evidence (August 3, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan J. Koehler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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