Evaluation of forensic DNA mixture evidence: protocol for evaluation, interpretation, and statistical calculations using the combined probability of inclusion

Background: The evaluation and interpretation of forensic DNA mixture evidence faces greater interpretational challenges due to increasingly complex mixture evidence. Such challenges include: casework involving low quantity or degraded evidence leading to allele and locus dropout; allele sharing of contributors leading to allele stacking; and differentiation of PCR stutter artifacts from true alleles. There is variation in statistical approaches used to evaluate the strength of the evidence when inclusion of a specific known individual(s) is determined, and the approaches used must be supportable. There are concerns that methods utilized for interpretation of complex forensic DNA mixtures may not be implemented properly in some casework. Similar questions are being raised in a number of U.S. jurisdictions, leading to some confusion about mixture interpretation for current and previous casework.

Results: Key elements necessary for the interpretation and statistical evaluation of forensic DNA mixtures are described. Given the most common method for statistical evaluation of DNA mixtures in many parts of the world, including the USA, is the Combined Probability of Inclusion/Exclusion (CPI/CPE). Exposition and elucidation of this method and a protocol for use is the focus of this article. Formulae and other supporting materials are provided.

Conclusions: Guidance and details of a DNA mixture interpretation protocol is provided for application of the CPI/ CPE method in the analysis of more complex forensic DNA mixtures. This description, in turn, should help reduce the variability of interpretation with application of this methodology and thereby improve the quality of DNA mixture interpretation throughout the forensic community.

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