States continue to fall behind in analyzing DNA evidence in criminal cases as they require more genetic samples to be collected but don’t pay for the analysis, says Mark Nelson of the National Institute of Justice, the U.S. Justice Department’s research arm. Federal aid between 2005 and 2009 helped analyze 1.6 million samples but could not keep up with the demand, Nelson told representatives of criminal justice groups meeting Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
About 1.7 million new DNA samples were collected by law enforcement last year, Nelson said, but the maximum capacity for analysis is only about 1 million, partly because of public agency budget limitations. Michael Volkov, a Washington lawyer representing a private crime laboratory, argues that the failure of governments to process the DNA samples means that “repeat offenders aren’t being taken off the street.” Volkov, who has served as a congressional staff member on the Republican side, asserted that his party, if it gains in the November elections, would deal with the DNA testing backlog more aggressively. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, this week introduced a bill to expand DNA testing capacities nationally, but it is unlikely to make much progress so late in the congressional session.