Expanded CODIS STR allele frequencies – Evidence for the irrelevance of race-based DNA databases

Robert F. Oldt, Sreetharan Kanthaswamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The US Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) core Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) short tandem repeat (STR) panel is required for the calculations of random match probabilities (RMPs) in forensic DNA analysis. Current practice dictates that RMPs should be generated across appropriate reference STR allele frequency databases, including African American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Native American, when the suspect's race is unknown. Should the suspect declare their race, a specific reference database that pertains to that designation is used. This practice is based on the presumption that racial population group is relevant for calculating conservative RMPs that favor the defendant. The core CODIS panel has been expanded to 20 STRs, however, the relationship between RMP and race has not been re-evaluated. Genetic structure analyses and Bayesian-based population assignment of expanded CODIS profiles from one race-neutral and five race-specific reference databases revealed that STR data could not distinguish races as distinct biological clusters. For instance, while the average race-specific RMPs for Hispanic or Caucasian profiles were almost equally-conservative when calculated from either population's reference database, the Hispanic profiles closely affined with the Native American population. Race-neutral RMPs computed with a correction factor (θ) of 0.03 favor the defendant as much as race-specific RMPs based on a θ of 0.01. Insufficient genetic differentiation observed among the US racial populations as well as inconsequential differences between race-specific and race-neutral RMPs undermine the value of using “race” in the context of forensic DNA analysis and support the argument that forensic databases should be race-neutral.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101642
JournalLegal Medicine
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Forensic DNA analysis
  • Population structure
  • Race
  • Random match probability
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


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