FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASENIJ
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7, 1998202/307-0703

DOJ ESTABLISHES COMMISSION TO STUDY FUTURE OF DNA EVIDENCE

Experts and Practitioners will tackle DNA issues raised by recent cases and research

WASHINGTON--A national Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence is being established by the federal government's criminal justice research and evaluation agency, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), to review and discuss major legal, policy and research issues related to the use of DNA evidence. The Commission will ultimately make recommendations to the Attorney General regarding the future of DNA evidence from the crime scene to the courtroom.

"DNA evidence has emerged as a powerful evidentiary tool and one whose use is becoming much more commonplace," said NIJ Director Jeremy Travis. "But there are still many issues related to the identification, collection and preservation of DNA evidence that need our attention. I am confident that the Commission will better equip criminal justice officials to use DNA evidence to help convict those who have committed crimes and exonerate those who are innocent."

Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Shirley S. Abrahamson will chair the Commission. Assistant U. S. Attorney Christopher Asplen, former Director of the National District Attorneys' Association's DNA Legal Assistance Unit, has been selected as the Commission's Executive Director. The Commission includes several members from the FBI's DNA Advisory Board and will coordinate with them to ensure that there is no duplication. The 19-member Commission will include judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement personnel, forensic scientists, and academicians familiar with the use of DNA evidence.

The Commission will have five subcommittees that will explore: post-conviction issues raised in NIJ's Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial; legal issues arising from cases involving admissibility standards, discovery considerations and the role of expert testimony; crime scene issues, including DNA collection and contamination; crime laboratory funding and the future of technological innovations in the DNA evidence arena; and trends in DNA technology and their impact on the criminal justice system. Each subcommittee will be chaired by a member of the Commission and will consist of other Commission members and subject matter experts familiar with DNA evidence.

The Commission is scheduled to meet for the first time in early March 1998. The Commission will work for two years and anticipates providing a final report of findings and recommendations to the Attorney General shortly thereafter. Some subcommittees have begun work.

For additional information about NIJ and its programs, visit the NIJ Internet Web site at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij. Information about other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) bureaus and program offices is available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov. A list of the Commission members is attached.

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NIJ 98-028

For additional information contact Doug Johnson at 202/616-3559