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Koehler quoted on DNA fallibility in 'Los Angeles Times'

January 21, 2009

Professor Jay Koehler, of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, was quoted recently in a Los Angeles Times article titled, "The danger of DNA: It isn't perfect."

The Dec. 26, 2008, article, by reporters Maura Dolan and Jason Felch, examines the fallibility of DNA evidence.

"By far the most reliable forensic science, it still has limits: Samples can be contaminated and may go untested for years. And collecting it may violate privacy laws," the article states.

The article describes a 2004 arrest in New Jersey in a decades-old murder of an eighth-grade girl. Two years later, investigators determined that evidence from the murder scene was contaminated with the defendant's DNA, which was being tested in the lab in a different case.

DNA samples can be contaminated, mislabled or switched in the lab; labs have huge backlogs of untested evidence; and debates have flared over civil rights and privacy in the collection and storage of DNA samples, according to the article.

Koehler, who has studied lab error, estimated the rate of false DNA matches at about 1 in 1,000, whether they are caught or missed.

"No one would ride on an airline that crashed one out of every 1,000 flights," he told the Times. 

Read the entire article here.

Judy Nichols,
(480) 727-7895
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law