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Exploratory Data Analysis for the Interpretation of Low Template DNA Mixtures

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Genetics Volume: 6 Issue: 6 Dated: December 2012 Pages: 762-774
Date Published
December 2012
13 pages

This paper uses a probabilistic model to calculate likelihood ratios when there is uncertainty about the composition of the crime-sample.


The interpretation of DNA mixtures has proven to be a complex problem in forensic genetics. In particular, low template DNA samples, where alleles can be missing (allele drop-out), or where alleles unrelated to the crime-sample are amplified (allele drop-in), cannot be analyzed with classical approaches such as random man not excluded or random match probability. Drop-out, drop-in, stutters and other PCR-related stochastic effects, create uncertainty about the composition of the crime-sample, making it difficult to attach a weight of evidence when (a) reference sample(s) is (are) compared to the crime-sample. The proposed model is essentially exploratory in the sense that it allows the exploration of LRs when two key-parameters, drop-out and drop-in are varied within their plausible ranges of variation. The authors build on the work of Curran et al., and improve their probabilistic model to allow more flexibility in the way the model parameters are applied. Two new main modifications are brought to their model: (i) different drop-out probabilities can be applied to different contributors, and (ii) different parameters can be used under the prosecution and the defence hypotheses. The authors illustrate how the LRs can be explored when the drop-out and drop-in parameters are varied, and suggest the use of Monte Carlo simulations to derive plausible ranges for the probability of drop-out. Although the model is suited for both high and low template samples, the authors illustrate the advantages of the exploratory approach through two DNA mixtures (involving two and at least three individuals) with low template components. (Published Abstract)

Date Published: December 1, 2012