Major groups maintain Congress should act on bill seeking rape kit backlog reduction and forensic science improvements after the elections before adjourning for the year. A large coalition of justice groups had earlier sought approval of the measure, saying it would help “provide justice to more victims.”
A panel of scientists called into question several techniques that have been used as evidence in criminal trials for decades, including bite marks and tread comparisons from shoes and tires. The panel said such evidence falls “far short” of scientific standards and urged judges to be cautious in allowing its use at trials.
Smaller cities are increasing collections of DNA samples from suspects who are not convicted of crimes. Police are asking more people for DNA samples in traffic stops or during checks on suspicious people. One Pennsylvania township says its DNA database helped cut burglaries 42 percent.
The National District Attorneys Association says a report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is “scientifically irresponsible.” The draft report says forensic bite-mark evidence is not scientifically valid, and also critiques other forensic methods.
Houston constable Mark Herman accused a “rogue employee” of haphazardly cleaning out drugs, guns and other evidence. Federal investigators could charge any wrongful convictions as civil-rights violations.
The National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology in Brussels was severely damaged by arsonists. Officials said DNA and other evidence considered crucial to terrorism investigations may have been destroyed. Five people were arrested.
The controversy concerns TrueAllele, a genotyping program used to identify suspects in complex DNA mixtures involving more than one person. Just five of the country’s 250 crime labs use the program, which is central to a legal fight in New York.