In 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the U.S. Justice Department would spend a billion dollars to eliminate the DNA testing backlog in 5 years. The effort, says ProPublica.org, was aimed at helping crime labs swiftly identify murderers, rapists and other dangerous criminals so they couldn’t strike again. At least 350,000 samples from murder and rape cases — many of them involving sexually abused children — remain untested in crime labs nationwide, say the federal government’s best estimates. Other reports indicate that the backlog may be even bigger, with as many as 700,000 samples.
Beginning this month, ProPublica will follow five labs to see just how well they're keeping up. The current backlog numbers at the five are recorded on the organization’s Web site. Every month, ProPublica will provide an update on each lab’s progress — or lack thereof.