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Making Sense of the DNA Backlog - Interview at the 2009 NIJ Conference

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2009
14 pages
This audio and its transcript cover panel presentations at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 2009 Conference that discuss preliminary findings of two national surveys on the DNA backlog in forensic laboratories across the Nation.
The presentations address some of the issues with these backlogs and dispel some of the myths. Kevin Strom - senior research scientist for the Crime, Violence, and Justice Research Program of RTI International - discusses a survey of law enforcement forensic evidence processing that RTI has conducted under NIJ funding. Its primary objective was to estimate the number of unsolved violent homicide and rape cases as well as property-crime cases that collected evidence for forensic analysis that was never sent to a forensic lab. Reasons given for this circumstance included no identified suspect, uncertainty about where to send the evidence for analysis, lack of guidance from a prosecutor, and issues related to laboratory resources and efficiency. Implications of these findings are discussed. Greg Matheson - director of the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD's) criminalistics laboratory - discusses the LAPD's experience with a huge increase in its evidence backlog over a short period of time, primarily in rape kit evidence. Reasons for this backlog in rape cases are identified, and suggestions for improvement are offered. Kevin Lothridge - chief executive officer of the National Forensic Science Technology Center - discusses reasons why progress has not been made in reducing backlogs of evidence for analysis after so much has been spent on increasing the capacities of forensic laboratories. He suggests that it is because the amount of evidence submitted to the laboratory continues to increase due to new technology, new rules, new laws, and new types of evidence collection.

Date Published: June 1, 2009