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Brown v. Farwell

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
525 F.3d 787 (9th Cir. 2008)


Facts

Troy Brown (defendant) was charged with sexual assault. At trial, DNA expert Renee Romero testified that there was a 99.99967 percent chance that Brown was the assailant. Absent this evidence, there was not sufficient evidence to convict Brown. The trial court convicted Brown and Brown filed a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that his due process rights had been violated. Brown was permitted to expand the record and he provided a report from Dr. Laurence Mueller that discredited Romero’s testimony as unreliable and misleading. Dr. Mueller reported that Romero incorrectly presented her statistical evidence to suggest that the DNA evidence indicated that there was a 99.99967 percent chance that Brown committed the crime, instead of the true meaning, that the statistics suggested there as a 99.99967 percent chance that someone with Browns’ type of DNA committed the crime. This difference is known as the prosecutor’s fallacy and is very misleading because the probability is higher that DNA matches one individual in general than that the DNA it matches Brown. In addition, Romero improperly minimized the chance that Brown’s DNA would match one of his brothers’ DNA. This inaccurately minimized the chances that one of Brown’s brothers, who were discussed at trial as possibly being guilty, was actually the assailant. As a result of these inaccuracies in Romero’s testimony, the district court granted Brown’s petition and reversed his conviction. The prosecution appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wardlaw, J.)

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