Spencer S. Hsu is an investigative reporter, two-time Pulitzer finalist and national Emmy award nominee.)
GIST: "The FBI has notified crime labs across the country that it has discovered errors in data used by forensic scientists in thousands of cases to calculate the chances that DNA found at a crime scene matches a particular person, several people familiar with the issue said. The bureau has said it believes the errors, which extend to 1999, are unlikely to result in dramatic changes that would affect cases. It has submitted the research findings to support that conclusion for publication in the July issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the officials said. But crime labs and attorneys said they want to know more about the problem before conceding it would not make much difference in any given case. “The public puts so much faith in DNA testing that it makes it especially important to make those the best estimates possible,” said Wright State University professor of statistics Daniel R. Krane, an expert whose work has been cited by defense attorneys. “There is no excuse for a systematic error to many thousands of calculations in such a context.” Krane, who identified errors 10 years ago in the DNA profiles the FBI analyzed to generate the population statistics data, called the consequences of the disclosure appalling, saying the data have been used in tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide in the past 15 years. He said when he flagged the problems a decade ago, the FBI downplayed his findings.........The disclosure comes as some private researchers and lawyers in recent years questioned whether errors in the FBI’s national database of 13 million DNA profiles may have led judges and juries to give undue weight to DNA matches, long considered the “gold standard” in forensic science. They have called on the government to open the database for private research."
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