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The NAS Study: What’s Right with Forensic Technology Today

A report published February 18 by the National Academy of Sciences found that although there are “scores of talented and dedicated people serving the forensic community, […] they are often constrained by the lack of adequate resources, sound policies, and national support.” Due to these constraints, the study noted that some forensic techniques used in the U.S. crime laboratory system have evolved largely outside of scientific review and standardization, with the notable exception of DNA analysis.

The 2-year congressionally mandated study revealed problems including the lack of national standards for laboratory performance and training, as well as the absence of vigorous validation studies on commonly accepted forensic methods such as fingerprint and toolmark analysis.

According to the findings, DNA technology is the only forensic discipline that has been subject to and has withstood the test of rigorous scientific evaluation that ensures its reliability. While other forensic disciplines such as hair, bite mark and handwriting analysis have yet to be standardized, DNA analysis has withstood years of scrutiny and research by experts in molecular biology, population genetics, and criminal law.

The study further recommended that forensic science work be conducted outside law enforcement agencies to foster more unbiased analysis.

As an independent forensics DNA testing laboratory, DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) fulfills a much-needed service that aids in the pursuit of justice. DDC’s laboratory services are based on the ideals of neutrality and scientific accuracy, as exemplified by its work with both law enforcement and defense attorneys. DDC is an approved vendor of the state of Ohio for forensic DNA services, and it is also a partner of the Ohio Innocence Project, which recently took part in the release of Robert McClendon. McClendon was released in August 2008 after a DNA test cleared him of rape charges.

McClendon’s example is one of many in which forensic evidence found at the crime scene could lead to wrongful convictions because of weak forensic standards, under-funded crime labs, and the uncertainty introduced by traditional methods that have not undergone rigorous scientific validation studies. Wrongful conviction cases may also have been influenced by bias that could be present in crime laboratories that are tied closely to, if not part of, law enforcement offices.

DDC employs proven scientific methods in its forensic DNA analysis. Its laboratory undergoes regular, rigorous inspections by outside assessors who follow strict guidelines set by the FBI and ISO, and ASCLD/LAB-International. By focusing strictly on the science, our DNA analysis is truly unbiased. DDC’s scientists have testified on behalf of the prosecution and defense, allowing the science to stand on its own.

In fact, several judges have recommended DDC as the laboratory to conduct DNA testing when samples will be consumed so that both prosecution and defense are satisfied that a truly neutral third party can provide quality DNA analysis.

DDC conducts training seminars and continuing legal education programs for both law enforcement and defense lawyers on the proper collection of biological evidence and the legal applications of DNA. For more information, call DDC Forensics at 1-800-406-1940.

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