July 19, 2023 — Prosecutors were nearly three times more likely to issue an indictment in criminal cases if DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) evidence was available, according to a new study led by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU).
The study, published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, focused on how the presence of DNA influences a prosecutor’s decision to advance a case, which had never been evaluated.
DNA can be collected from a range of biological matter including skin flakes, blood droplets, hair, and saliva as forensic evidence. Since no two people have identical DNA, even a tiny amount of DNA found on clothing or objects can pinpoint criminals or eliminate potential suspects.
For this study, researchers created a unique database for the Israel Police Forensics Division, indicating the presence or absence of DNA profiles in criminal cases (n=9862), and indictment status on each case from 2008 to 2019.
The researchers found that the average indictment in all criminal cases was approximately 15.1%, while the number of cases indicted with DNA evidence was three times that amount at 45.9%, and increased steadily over time.
These significant findings have implications worldwide for law enforcement agencies, legal professionals, and policymakers involved in the pursuit of justice. However, the researchers caution against using DNA evidence indiscriminately. “DNA evidence is a potent tool, but it is not infallible. Its use in legal proceedings must be carefully considered,” the researchers say. “This data should contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the role of forensic evidence in criminal investigations.”
The research team consisted of: Esther Buchnik, Hebrew University Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law; Barak Ariel, Institute of Criminology at Hebrew University as well as the University of Cambridge; Avi Domb, Hebrew University Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Medicine; Nir Treves, Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine; and Dr. Ron Gafny, Division of Identification and Forensic Science, Israel Police.