Introduction to Forensic DNA Evidence for Criminal Justice Professionals: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Introduction to Forensic DNA Evidence for Criminal Justice Professionals

1st Edition

By Jane Moira Taupin

CRC Press

192 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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The use of DNA profiling in forensic cases has been considered the most innovative technique in forensic science since fingerprinting, yet for those with limited scientific knowledge, understanding DNA enough to utilize it properly can be a daunting task. Introduction to Forensic DNA Evidence for Criminal Justice Professionals is designed for nonscientific readers who need to learn how to effectively use forensic DNA in criminal cases.

Written by a forensic scientist world renowned for her expertise in clothing examination, the book provides a balanced perspective on the weight of DNA evidence. Going beyond a simple explanation of the methodology, it arms attorneys and other criminal justice professionals with knowledge of the strengths and limitations of the evidence, including the danger in relying on DNA statistical probabilities in the determination of guilt.

The book covers the most common DNA methods used in criminal trials today—nuclear DNA short tandem repeat (STR) techniques, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-STR profiling. It helps prosecutors know when to emphasize DNA evidence or proceed with trial in the absence of such evidence. It assists defense lawyers in knowing when to challenge DNA evidence and perhaps employ an independent expert, when to focus elsewhere, or when to secure the advantage of an early guilty plea.

By imparting practical and theoretical knowledge in an accessible manner, the book demystifies the topic to help both sides of the adversarial system understand where DNA evidence fits within the context of the case.


. . . a valuable introduction, with many useful examples. The limitations of the subject, the need for caution in interpretation and problems such as contamination and degradation are expertly handled.

—Graham Fricke, QC, retired County Court Judge

Overall this book is very clearly written. The author is able to simplify complex scientific terms and concepts into information understandable by a wide audience with divers experiences and backgrounds … This book will serve as a great reference for nonscientists who routinely encounter DNA evidence within the criminal justice system and for students interested in an introduction to forensic DNA evidence.

—Book review by Krista E. Latham, PhD, appearing in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 2014, Vol. 59, No. 4

Table of Contents

History of forensic DNA profiling in criminal investigations

Discovery of structure and importance of DNA molecule: A Nobel prize

DNA and concept of individuality

Alec Jeffreys and the world’s first murder case solved by DNA

Early criminal court challenges to DNA technology

Changing the face of forensic science: The value of biological evidence

Strengths and limitations of DNA profiling evidence

Introduction: Power and caution

Discrimination power of DNA profiling

Genetic basis for DNA profiling

Stability of DNA profiling

Persuasive statistics


DNA databases

DNA intelligence-led policing

Mass disasters

DNA evidence in context

Time of deposition: Transfer and persistence of DNA

Relevant evidence?

Relevant exhibits?

"CSI effect" and the notion of infallible forensic evidence

Relationships of lawyers and scientists

DNA profiling basics

What is DNA?

Biological materials allowing DNA profiling

Reference samples

Current profiling technique: Short tandem repeats (STRs)

Reading tables of alleles

Obtaining DNA profiles

Time required to obtain DNA profiles

Designating peaks

Case documentation and review

Evidential value and statistics

Interpreting DNA profiles

Statistical approaches and obtaining final statistics

Legal fallacies

Understanding reports: Common phrases and their meanings

Sampling correction and uncertainty

Relevant population and impact on statistical value


Partial profiles, low levels, and mixtures

Partial profiles

Low level and suboptimal profiles

DNA mixtures from two or more people

Mixture interpretation steps

Low template mixtures

Complex mixtures

Y-STR profiling




Number of male contributors to Y-

STR profile

Determining mixture ratios

Combining statistics from autosomal and Y-STR profiling

Other DNA techniques including mitochondrial DNA

DNA analysis of bone

Mitochondrial DNA basics

Statistics in mitochondrial DNA analysis


Mixture mitochondrial DNA profiles

Familial DNA searching

Domestic animal hair

Other techniques

Concerns and controversies

Quality issues

Relevant sample testing


Interpretation issues

Error rates

Overreliance on DNA technology

Interpretation of DNA profiles: Objectivity and subjectivity

Retesting of samples

Adversarial system

Misconception about exact science


DNA pointers for criminal justice professionals

Advantages of DNA profiling

Querying DNA evidence: Advice for the prosecution and the defense

Warning signs

Was all evidence tested?

Pretrial review

Suggested cross-examination questions

Discovery requests

Appendix A: Glossary of terms used in reports and testimony

Appendix B: Selected DNA issues and case examples

Appendix C: Steps in review of evidence


About the Author

Jane Moira Taupin obtained a Bachelor of Science with Honours from the University of Melbourne in Australia. She has presented biological expert evidence in courts of law since 1987 and has presented DNA profiling evidence in court since 1999. She earned a postgraduate diploma along with an MA, both in criminology from the University of Melbourne. Her master’s thesis in 1994 on the impact of DNA profiling was one of the first in the field. She is currently an independent forensic consultant and trainer. She has published many articles in peer-reviewed journals discussing trace evidence, clothing damage, and blood pattern analysis and has also co-authored a text on the forensic examination of clothing.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Criminal Law / General
LAW / Forensic Science
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General