Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence
Statistics is the science of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. Statisticians
develop, test and implement tools to display empirical data, to extract information
from those data, and more generally, to draw inferences about populations using
samples drawn from populations. Data arise in every discipline, so statistical
methods are useful to almost everyone who wishes to use data to answer questions.
The civil and criminal justice systems are no exceptions. Questions of interest might
• What was the time of death of the victim?
• Did the suspect’s shoe leave the print at the
• Are hiring practices in company X
• Is the defendant the father of the child?
These are just a few examples of the many questions that
may arise in court, and for which the judge or a jury must produce an answer. Ideally,
the answer is accompanied by some measure of uncertainty to reflect the confidence of
the juror or judge on the answer. The idea of uncertainty plays a critical role in statistics.
Uncertainty arises when we do not know the outcome of some process, yet decisions
must be made in the face of uncertainty. Evidence may suggest the defendant committed
the crime, but unless we were there to see the crime in real time, there is always some
chance someone else may have be guilty instead