A probabilistic formalization of contextual bias in forensic analysis: Evidence that examiner bias leads to systemic bias in the criminal justice system
Although researchers have found evidence contextual bias in forensic science, the discussion of contextual bias is currently qualitative. We formalize years of empirical research and extend this research by showing quantitatively how biases can be propagated throughout the legal system, all the way up to the final determination of guilt in a criminal trial. We provide a probabilistic framework for describing how information is updated in a forensic analysis setting by using the ratio form of Bayes' rule. We analyze results from empirical studies using our framework and use simulations to demonstrate how bias can be compounded where experiments do not exist. We find that even minor biases in the earlier stages of forensic analysis lead to large, compounded biases in the final determination of guilt in a criminal trial.