08 May, 2011

Statistics and Judicial trials

An issue hotly debated in academic circles, but treated as little more than disdain by most judges, has been the extent to which mathematics can inform the trial process. An extreme level, the courts to accept mathematical evidence pointing to the design inference. Fingerprints and DNA evidence, for example, a powerful only because those who give it also tell the court, in mathematical language, that the odds of anyone else having the same principal DNA material are almost impetus similarly small. The question which seems to arises is whether it is rational not to act on such evidence.

Judicial skepticism of attempts to quantify the probabilities in a given case has often been justified. In some cases, the statistics are obviously been phoning. The prosecution in the case of Capt Dreyfus in 1899 claimed a remarkable incidence of similarities between Capt Dreyfus' handwriting and the letters to the Germans which the prosecution alleged and the defense denied were written by the same hand. In fact, the number of similarities were statistically insignificant. There are often good reasons to be dubious statistical evidence. One can rarely be assured of its correctness, let alone its applicability to the case in hand. And it is almost impossible to imagine a case in which all the odds can be precisely calculate it. How, for example, the character led the odds of a witness lied? But even excepting the limited place for mathematics in assisting quantification of the odds for or against proposition with any precision, the fact is that we do occasionally decide issues, or test the appropriateness of a tentative decision, by reference to vague notions of the chances for or against an innocent connection between the party and a proven fact.

04 May, 2011

How DNA analysis confirmed Osama bin Laden’s death ?

Though the world''s most wanted man Osama bin Laden was killed during a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on 2 May, his body was identified after a series of investigation.

According to the US Government, his death was confirmed by comparison to photographs, confirmation from one of his wives at the compound, facial-recognition software, and - the gold standard for identification - DNA analysis, reports New Scientist.

John Brennan, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said the DNA evidence provided a match with "99.9 per cent confidence".

That would require the comparison of DNA from the body with that of people known to be related to bin Laden. Bin Laden had no full siblings, but more than 50 half-siblings and up to 24 children.

Using DNA from many half-siblings could produce a DNA match of greater than 90 per cent confidence, but it would be difficult to get as high as 99.9 per cent without a closer relative said Rhonda Roby, a forensic geneticist at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth.

Roby, who led the team using DNA evidence to identify the remains of people killed in the 9/11 attacks in 2001, said that the statistical analysis based on DNA from half-siblings is more complex and less reliable than analysis based on DNA from a closer relative like a parent or child.

Reports indicated that one of bin Laden''s sons was also killed in the raid, possibly 20-year-old Hamza bin Laden.

Roby said DNA from a son and several half-siblings could confirm Osama''s identity with 99.9 per cent accuracy.

If, however, the government was able to obtain DNA from bin Laden''s body, his son and also that son''s biological mother - who might have been at the compound during the raid, it could perform DNA profiling with a "full paternity trio", assuring 99.9 per cent accuracy, she added.