The a posteriori probability of the number of contributors when conditioned on an assumed contributor

Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2021 Sep;54:102563. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2021.102563. Epub 2021 Jul 8.

Abstract

Forensic DNA signal is notoriously challenging to assess, requiring computational tools to support its interpretation. Over-expressions of stutter, allele drop-out, allele drop-in, degradation, differential degradation, and the like, make forensic DNA profiles too complicated to evaluate by manual methods. In response, computational tools that make point estimates on the Number of Contributors (NOC) to a sample have been developed, as have Bayesian methods that evaluate an A Posteriori Probability (APP) distribution on the NOC. In cases where an overly narrow NOC range is assumed, the downstream strength of evidence may be incomplete insofar as the evidence is evaluated with an inadequate set of propositions. In the current paper, we extend previous work on NOCIt, a Bayesian method that determines an APP on the NOC given an electropherogram, by reporting on an implementation where the user can add assumed contributors. NOCIt is a continuous system that incorporates models of peak height (including degradation and differential degradation), forward and reverse stutter, noise, and allelic drop-out, while being cognizant of allele frequencies in a reference population. When conditioned on a known contributor, we found that the mode of the APP distribution can shift to one greater when compared with the circumstance where no known contributor is assumed, and that occurred most often when the assumed contributor was the minor constituent to the mixture. In a development of a result of Slooten and Caliebe (FSI:G, 2018) that, under suitable assumptions, establishes the NOC can be treated as a nuisance variable in the computation of a likelihood ratio between the prosecution and defense hypotheses, we show that this computation must not only use coincident models, but also coincident contextual information. The results reported here, therefore, illustrate the power of modern probabilistic systems to assess full weights-of-evidence, and to provide information on reasonable NOC ranges across multiple contexts.

Keywords: DNA mixtures; Forensic DNA; Mixtures; Number of contributors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Bayes Theorem
  • DNA
  • DNA Fingerprinting*
  • Humans

Substances

  • DNA