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How Far Will the DNA Revolution Go?
The DNA 'Wars' Are Over

"The U.S. public, usually indifferent to matters scientific, has suddenly become obsessed with DNA"-- so began a 1994 article written at the height of national interest in the O.J. Simpson trial, which introduced much of the general public to the language of DNA science and the power of DNA evidence. The article, published in the distinguished science journal Nature and co-authored by an unlikely pair--an MIT scientist who was one of the earliest skeptics on DNA evidence and an FBI forensic scientist -- offered an important and dramatic conclusion: the two scientists "could identify no remaining problem that should prevent the full use of DNA evidence in any court." In less than a decade, DNA had entered the courtroom and weathered significant challenges from scientific experts and jurists; now it was being ratified as the most significant scientific tool in criminal justice since the fingerprint. This excerpt from a Department of Justice study offers a brief history of the rise and ultimate ascendance of DNA evidence in American courts.
CODIS - The FBI Laboratory's Combined DNA Index System
Program

The DNA Identification Act of 1994 formalized the FBI's authority to establish a national DNA index for law enforcement purposes. The database is being compiled from DNA "profiles" of offenders of serious crimes (rape, other sexual assualt, murder) collected by the states. "CODIS" currently holds more than 250,000 DNA profiles, but this number will increase dramatically over the next few years as coordination with the states continues to improve, and states' efforts continue to be better funded and more fully implemented.
DNA Databases
and Privacy Concerns?

Over the last few years, state governments have begun collecting samples of DNA from certain classes of offenders to be used for "legitimate law enforcement uses." But what uses should we consider legitimate? In this excerpt from a recent law review article, lawyer Michelle Hibbert considers these questions: Should we collect the DNA of only convicted criminals or anyone who enters the criminal justice system, even if a person is later found innocent? What special privacy concerns arise from DNA profiling techniques, and how do these privacy claims balance with law enforcement objectives in building more comprehensive databases to fight crime? What is there to be learned, or feared, from inconsistencies between the states in how they compile their DNA profile databases?
A Vision of the
Future

Over the last decade we have come to accept DNA evidence in the courtroom. But today's groundbreaking genetic research holds the possibility of completely remaking our most basic conceptions of justice, according to law professor Steven Friedland. For example, will the presence of "aggressiveness" genes become an adequate defense for a crime? Will "genetic determinism" replace the concept of "free will" when our courts try to decide questions of fault and blame? In this excerpt from his provocative, wide-ranging treatment of these issues, Friedland tries to imagine the legal world remade by the Human Genome Project.


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