DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring fairness in the criminal justice system. Every effort that is made to reduce backlogs of untested evidence, to better equip forensic laboratories, to develop faster methods of analyzing samples, and to better train professionals in the use of DNA technology, will improve the accuracy of the criminal justice system. Accordingly, the measures described in the previous sections will not only help solve crimes and keep dangerous offenders off the streets, but will also help minimize the risk that innocent individuals are wrongly accused or convicted.
Post-conviction DNA testing has received considerable attention in recent years. Since the advent of forensic DNA analysis, a number of individuals convicted of crimes have been subsequently exonerated through DNA analysis of crime scene evidence that was not tested at the time of trial. The following are two recent reported examples:
Many states have already enacted provisions that allow convicted offenders in certain cases to seek post-conviction DNA testing of evidence collected in those cases. Currently, 31 states have enacted special statutory provisions providing post-conviction DNA testing, and additional states make post-conviction testing available through other procedures. Federal law also should provide for post-conviction DNA testing in appropriate cases.
To demonstrate support for appropriate post-conviction testing of DNA evidence, the Attorney General will create a $5 million grant program under the President’s initiative to help states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing. In order to receive this funding, state programs will be required to meet criteria established by the Department of Justice. These criteria will require that DNA testing be performed by an accredited forensic laboratory, and will encourage states to develop plans that ensure prompt DNA testing of persons who may be wrongly convicted and discourage frivolous testing that may cause unnecessary expense and needless harm to crime victims.
TOC | Using DNA to Solve Crimes | Using DNA to Identify Missing Persons