DNA and the Criminal Justice System: Consensus and Debate
DNA and the Criminal Justice System: The Technology of Justice, pp. 357-390, D. Lazer, ed., MIT Press, 2004
40 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2004
This concluding chapter in a volume addressing the use of DNA evidence in the pretrial and posttrial phases of the criminal justice system identifies and analyzes areas where consensus does -- or should -- exist, as well as areas of disagreement.
Two primary areas of consensus exist. First, because DNA changes the meaning of time in the criminal justice system, the system's notion of finality must be rethought: evidence must be preserved, statutory criteria must be developed to govern postconviction access to and review of DNA evidence, and statutes of limitation on the introduction of new evidence should be lengthened or abolished. Second, DNA offender databases can be effective and legitimate tools for solving and preventing crimes.
In the area of posttrial relief, the areas of disagreement which we discuss include the appropriate gatekeepers of and criteria for postconviction review, the appropriate response to exculpatory and guilt-confirming results, and how to address the systemic flaws in the criminal justice system which DNA testing has unearthed. In the area of offender databases, we discuss debates about the appropriate criteria for direct inclusion in the database, the appropriateness of indirect inclusion of offenders' relatives through low-stringency searches by law enforcement, and how the database should be regulated.
Keywords: DNA, criminal law, genetics, database, exoneration
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