DNA forensics

Americans are now familiar with the power of DNA as a tool of justice. Television series star DNA as the ultimate detective. But in the real world, the states’ forensic laboratories are a hodgepodge of low skill levels and weak resources. Universal standards are missing on such crucial matters as the proper preservation of biological evidence and its availability for appeals of convictions. This makes it all the more urgent that the Senate pass a highly creative measure, already approved in an overwhelmingly bipartisan House endorsement, that would help the states bring their DNA analysis techniques up to sophisticated levels, and help death row inmates have more competent legal counsel and fairer access to DNA testing.

Unfortunately, this measure has become caught in conservative cross-fire in the Senate. Critics contend that it would give convicted murderers unfair opportunities to appeal. Actually, the measure would help the states afford far better collection and storage procedures for evidence, while also underwriting part of an inmate’s DNA-based appeal. The measure is endorsed by the Senate judiciary chairman, Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican. He must now apply his peacemaking skills to what would be a standout advancement of justice by this Congress. — The New York Times