Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Statistics Expert Says L.A. Times “Mischaracterized” Crucial Statistic in DNA “Cold Hit” Article

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:39 pm

A statistics expert cited by the L.A. Times has now publicly claimed that the paper “mischaracterized” a central statistic in a Page One article on DNA, statistics, and cold hits.

Prof. David Kaye was recently described by L.A. Times reporters Jason Felch and Maura Dolan as “an expert on science and the law at Arizona State University and former member of a national committee that studied forensic DNA.”

Prof. Kaye is also now on record, in a soon-to-be-published paper, as saying that those same reporters “mischaracterized” a critical probability in a May article about DNA “cold hit” cases.

Prof. Kaye’s article is scheduled to appear in the journal “Law, Probability, and Risk” in September 2008. Alert readers will recognize the error cited by Prof. Kaye as one that I have repeatedly complained about on this blog. Here’s Prof. Kaye:

Diana Sylvester, a “22-year-old San Francisco nurse had been sexually assaulted and stabbed in the heart” in her San Francisco apartment over thirty years ago. A DNA database match from a highly degraded semen sample led investigators to “John Puckett, an obese, wheelchair-bound 70-year-old with a history of rape.” The jury heard that the random-match probability for the match at five or so loci was about 1 in 1.1 million. It did not learn that the California database had 338,000 profiles in it, making np almost 1 in 3 — a number that would render the match almost worthless to the prosecution (and that the reporters mischaracterized as “the probability that the database search had hit upon an innocent person”).

(All emphasis in this post is mine.)

Yes, they did indeed mischaracterize the probability, as I have been arguing for months.

I’ll send a link to this post, and Prof. Kaye’s article, to reporter Felch and to Jamie Gold. They have dismissed my complaints on this issue in the past. But it seems to me that they have to pay attention, now that an expert they have cited has stated in an academic article that the article “mischaracterized” the central statistic in the article.

P.S. You shouldn’t misread Prof. Kaye’s phrasing to indicate that he believes the match was indeed “almost worthless to the prosecution.” Further details, set forth in the extended entry, will dispel that notion. Those details are of interest mainly to those intensely interested in this topic. But I know there are a few of you among the regular readers here.


PETA’s Advice to “Fit & Trim” Illegal Immigrants

Filed under: Immigration — DRJ @ 12:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Houston Chronicle published an article yesterday that was covered at Hot Air so I initially decided not to post on it. However, now that I’ve slept on it, it’s still one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time.

PETA wants to put billboards on the Southern border fence warning illegal immigrants not to come to the US because of the dangers of our high calorie, high-fat lifestyle. If immigrants decide to cross anyway, PETA wants them to know they should “Go Vegan”:

“While many view the contentious border fence as a government fiasco, an animal rights group sees a rare opportunity.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans today to announce an unusual marketing pitch to the U.S. government: Rent us space on the fence for billboards warning illegal border crossers there is more to fear than the Border Patrol.

The billboards, in English and Spanish, would offer the caution: “If the Border Patrol Doesn’t Get You, the Chicken and Burgers Will — Go Vegan.”
PETA says its billboards would picture “fit and trim” Mexicans in their own country, where their diet is more in line with the group’s mission. Another image on the sign would portray obese American children and adults “gorging on meaty, fat- and cholesterol-packed American food.”

The government says the ads will be rejected because they could reduce visibility and hinder enforcement.


Mukasey Speech on DOJ/Gonzales Hiring

Filed under: Government,Law — DRJ @ 12:11 pm

[Guest psot by DRJ]

In a speech to the ABA annual meeting, Attorney General Michael Mukasey today rejected Gonzales-era hiring practices at the Department of Justice and promised a return to professionalism and nonpartisan hiring:

“Mukasey, who once served as a federal judge in New York, said the Justice Department has taken steps under his leadership to prevent a recurrence of the hiring scandal.

“I have made repeatedly clear…that it is neither permissible nor acceptable to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career department employees,” Mukasey said.

If the problems were to recur, Mukasey said he is confident department employees would speak up.”

Mukasey also said there would be no criminal prosecutions because “not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.”


Obama’s Michigan Problem

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 11:57 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

According to Steve Mitchell in a RealClearPolitics’ article, Barack Obama’s problem in Michigan is that the GOP will successfully link Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Barack Obama like the Three Musketeers.

Bonus question: Will Michigan’s Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm remove Mayor Kilpatrick from office before the Presidential election?


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