DNA analysis is the most rigorously tested and documented forensic science today and sets the standards by which all other forensic disciplines are compared. Its discriminatory capability and reliability is unmatched by any other forensic science discipline. Yet, when presented in court, judges, attorneys and analysts alike struggle to understand or effectively present the technology. Prosecutors and defense attorneys with large caseloads and severe time constraints wrestle to comprehend even the basic concepts. Prosecution and defense bars spend countless dollars attending training seminars on "how to handle" DNA evidence. The extensive and well-documented research of DNA science, and the standards which have been applied to forensic DNA laboratories, has resulted in limiting the available attacks against it in court. The remaining attacks generally originate from identification/collection, contamination, and statistical analysis. Many of the issues giving rise to such challenges are well beyond the scope or control of the analysts. Those that are within their control have their roots in documentation and presentation.
Effective courtroom testimony is a critical component of the analysts' duties. The ability to communicate effectively an understanding of the science, technology, and tests involved with a particular case to non-scientist is essential. Maintaining objectivity, professionalism, and scientific integrity is absolutely necessary and will avoid many of the pitfalls that analysts may otherwise face.
Author: Greg Hill
Gregory Hill, Deputy Director of the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law at Stetson University College of Law, started his criminal justice career as a patrol officer with the City of Tampa Police Department. Greg received his Bachelor of Arts Degree, with honors, in Criminology from Saint Leo College and a Juris Doctorate degree in1995 at the State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Law.
In private practice, Greg focused on criminal defense law in State and Federal courts and served as an Assistant Public Defender in the 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County, FL), and the 9th Judicial Circuit (Orange and Osceola Counties, Florida).
Greg has extensive jury trial experience involving forensic evidence and has provided courtroom testimony instruction to law enforcement agencies, laboratory personnel, and attorneys in the use of scientific evidence. He is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and associate member of the International Homicide Investigators Association (IHIA) and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Greg is the AAFS 2007 Program Chair of the Jurisprudence Section Program.
Additional Online Courses
- What Every First Responding Officer Should Know About DNA Evidence
- Collecting DNA Evidence at Property Crime Scenes
- DNA – A Prosecutor’s Practice Notebook
- Crime Scene and DNA Basics
- Laboratory Safety Programs
- DNA Amplification
- Population Genetics and Statistics
- Non-STR DNA Markers: SNPs, Y-STRs, LCN and mtDNA
- Firearms Examiner Training
- Forensic DNA Education for Law Enforcement Decisionmakers
- What Every Investigator and Evidence Technician Should Know About DNA Evidence
- Principles of Forensic DNA for Officers of the Court
- Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert
- Laboratory Orientation and Testing of Body Fluids and Tissues
- DNA Extraction and Quantitation
- STR Data Analysis and Interpretation
- Communication Skills, Report Writing, and Courtroom Testimony
- Español for Law Enforcement
- Amplified DNA Product Separation for Forensic Analysts