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Two Items of Evidence, No Putative Source: An Inference Problem in Forensic Intelligence

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Intelligence analysts commonly associate cases on the basis of similarities found in compared characteristics of scientific evidence. The present paper studies some of the inferential difficulties associated with such operations. An analysis is proposed that breaks down the reasoning process into inference to common source, and inference to case linkage. The former requires an approach to the difficulty associated with evaluating the similarities of items of evidence from different cases with no putative source being available. The latter requires consideration to be given to the relevance of evidence. Throughout the paper, probability theory is used to describe the nature of the proposed inferences. Graphical models are also introduced with the aim of providing further insight into the dependence and independence relationships assumed to hold among the various propositions considered. Notions from decision theory are used to discuss ways in which intelligence analysts may assist investigators in deciding whether or not cases should be considered as linked.

Keywords: Bayes' theorem; decision theory; forensic intelligence; forensic science; graphical models; scientific evidence

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Criminal Justice, The University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne-Dorigny, Switzerland. 2: Department of Statistics, University Ca' Foscari, 30121 Venice, Italy.

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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