ADVANCING JUSTICE THROUGH DNA TECHNOLOGY: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system.  DNA can be used to identify criminals with incredible accuracy when biological evidence exists, and DNA can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes.

The current federal and state DNA collection and analysis system needs improvement.  In many instances, public crime labs are overwhelmed by backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples.  In addition, these labs may be ill-equipped to handle the increasing influx of DNA samples and evidence.  The problems of backlogs and the lack of up-to-date technology result in significant delays in the administration of justice.  More research is needed to develop faster methods for analyzing DNA evidence.  Professionals involved in the criminal justice system need additional training and assistance in order to ensure the optimal use of DNA evidence to solve crimes and assist victims.  And the criminal justice system needs the means to provide DNA testing in appropriate circumstances for individuals who assert that they have been wrongly convicted. 

President Bush believes we must do more to realize the full potential of DNA technology to solve crime and protect the innocent.  The President has proposed $232.6 million in federal funding in FY 2004 for his initiative, Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology, and calls for continuing this level of funding for five years – a total commitment of over $1 billion.  Under the President’s initiative, the Attorney General will improve the use of DNA in the criminal justice system – especially in federal, state, and local forensic laboratories – by providing funds, training and assistance to ensure that this technology reaches its full potential.  The President’s initiative promotes:

check bullet Using DNA to Solve Crimes:  When used to its full potential, DNA technology will permit the criminal justice system to identify criminals quickly and accurately.  More crimes will be solved and persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes will be cleared if the criminal justice system is provided with the necessary funding, technology, and assistance it needs to reap the benefits of DNA technology.  Under the President’s initiative, the Attorney General will:
  • Eliminate Backlogs: The initiative provides funding to eliminate, within five years, the current backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples for the most serious violent offenses – rapes, murders, and kidnappings – and for convicted offender samples needing testing.

  • Strengthen Crime Laboratory Capacity: The initiative provides funding to improve the analysis capacity of federal, state, and local crime labs so they can process DNA samples efficiently and cost-effectively and help prevent future backlogs. 
  • Stimulate Research and Development:  The initiative provides resources to stimulate innovative research in order to develop, among other things, more rapid and less costly methods of DNA analysis and the ability to analyze smaller and more degraded samples. 
  • Provide Training: The initiative provides training on the collection and use of DNA evidence to the wide variety of professionals involved in using DNA evidence in the criminal justice system – police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, forensic scientists, medical personnel, victim service providers, corrections officers, and probation and parole officers. 
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Using DNA to Protect the Innocent:  Under the President’s initiative, the Attorney General will advance the use of DNA technology to protect the innocent from wrongful prosecution.  The initiative supports providing access to post-conviction DNA testing in appropriate circumstances for state or federal inmates who may have been wrongly convicted, and establishes a grant program to assist states in providing post-conviction testing. 
 

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Using DNA to Identify Missing Persons:  The events of September 11, 2001 demonstrated on a national scale the potential for anguish when the remains of a missing person go unidentified.  In order to help provide closure for families of missing persons, the President’s initiative provides education and outreach to medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officers, and victims’ families on the use of DNA to identify missing persons.

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