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Massachusetts Medical Society




DNA typing, sometimes called DNA fingerprinting or profiling, has been the focus of heated exchanges in courtrooms, the popular press, and scientific journals. It is a powerful law-enforcement weapon, especially in cases of rape, because it has the potential to exonerate a suspect or to place him at the scene of a crime. On the other hand, it is of no use in rape cases like those in which William Kennedy Smith and Mike Tyson were accused, in which coitus is conceded to have occurred and the only real issue is consent. When should judges permit evidence from DNA typing to go to the jury, and what part should the medical and scientific literature play in this decision? Two U.S. circuit courts of appeal have now ruled on standards of admissibility for the results of DNA typing. In early 1992, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals set a low threshold for admissibility, refusing to follow the stricter test adopted in 1990 by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the only other federal appeals court to rule on this subject.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Setting Standards for the Use of DNA-Typing Results in the Courtroom - The State of the Art, Volume 326, Page 1641 Copyright ©(1992) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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