Law professor discusses implications of DNA evidence ruling by Supreme Court

After attending the oral arguments in Maryland v. King, a case that came before the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with DNA evidence, Penn State Dickinson School of Law professor and preeminent expert on DNA and statistical evidence David Kaye predicted that the lower court ruling would be overturned. Kaye talks briefly about the outcome of the case, why he would have focused on different issues than the majority and what issues unresolved by this ruling will likely come before the Supreme Court.

In the ruling on June 3 the Supreme Court narrowly decided that states could take DNA samples from persons accused of serious crimes. In the highly watched case, the 5-4 decision will allow police officers to take DNA samples without a warrant, making the swabs as common as fingerprinting.

Kaye is the main author of an amicus brief in the case which focuses on whether the Fourth Amendment bars Maryland from gathering DNA samples from individuals arrested for certain felonies. The case was argued on Feb. 26. The brief is on behalf of 10 scientists who study the nature and transmission of genetic information. In filing the brief, the group did not choose sides in the case but sought "to inform the court of the possible medical and social significance of the DNA stored in law enforcement databases." 

Kaye's research and teaching focus on the law of evidence, the use of science and statistics in litigation, and forensic science and criminal justice. His latest book is "The Double Helix and the Law of Evidence" published by Harvard University Press.

The final opinions are available online. Kaye also covers the issue in his blog.

 

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Last Updated April 04, 2014