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The Double Helix and the Law of Evidence

The Double Helix and the Law of Evidence

David H. Kaye

ISBN 9780674035881

Publication date: 01/01/2010

David H. Kaye

Bridging law, genetics, and statistics, this book is an authoritative history of the long and tortuous process by which DNA science has been integrated into the American legal system.
In a history both scientifically sophisticated and comprehensible to the nonspecialist, weaves together molecular biology, population genetics, the legal rules of evidence, and theories of statistical reasoning as he describes the struggles between prosecutors and defense counsel over the admissibility of genetic proof of identity. Combining scientific exposition with stories of criminal investigations, scientific and legal hubris, and distortions on all sides, Kaye shows how the adversary system exacerbated divisions among scientists, how lawyers and experts obfuscated some issues and clarified others, how probability and statistics were manipulated and misunderstood, and how the need to convince lay judges influenced the scientific research.
Looking to the future, Kaye uses probability theory to clarify legal concepts of relevance and probative value, and describes alternatives to race-based DNA profile frequencies.
Essential reading for lawyers, judges, and expert witnesses in DNA cases, The Double Helix and the Law of Evidence is an informative and provocative contribution to the interdisciplinary study of law and science.


  • This unique history of the forensic use of genetic testing, and the controversies from the earliest days to the present, is both accurate and intelligible. An acknowledged authority in the field, David Kaye uses striking case histories and excellent analogies to make the scientific issues clear to a nonspecialist. It is an impressive achievement.

    —James F. Crow, University of Wisconsin–Madison


  • David H. Kaye is Distinguished Professor of Law and Weiss Family Scholar, Pennsylvania State University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press