Supplement to Chapter 10

(Parentage Testing: Criminal Cases)


Copyright 2001, 2002 DH Kaye

Admissibility of the "Probability of Paternity"

(Add to Note, pp. 150-51)

A Texas Court of Appeals upheld the admissibility of the "probability of paternity" in Griffith v. State, 1998 WL 304909 (Tex. Ct. App. No. 07-96-0140-CR, June 9, 1998). The majority held that the long history of using the figure in paternity litigation showed its general acceptance in the scientific community and "that the use of a probability of paternity statistic based on Bayes' Theorem in a criminal proceeding does not violate the presumption of innocence" -- at least where the expert presenting this figure was cross-examined as to the choice of the prior probability of one-half. The court uncritically accepted the prosecution expert's assurances that "[t]he use of a prior probability of .5 is a neutral assumption" and was persuaded that "[t]he statistic merely reflects the application of a scientifically accepted mathematical theorem which in turn is an expression of the expert's opinion testimony." Although the court seemed unaware of most of the relevant literature on the subject, the majority adopted the interpretation of the presumption of innocence sketched in the Robertson note at pp. 150-51 of the text.

The use of parentage testing in cases of jailhouse pregnancies is not limited to Spann. Testing has been ordered in connection with the singer Gloria Trevi's efforts to block her extradition to Mexico to face charges of luring gullible teen-age girls into sexually abusive relationships with her manager, Sergio Andrade. See Larry Rohter, The Singer, the Scandal, the Jailhouse Pregnancy, N.Y. Times, Oct. 29, 2001.


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updated 30 October 2001