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a dicussion of scientific and legal issues involved in the use of scientific evidence in the courts, see Federal Judicial Center (1994).

The 1992 National Research Council Report

DNA techniques began to be used in criminal cases in the United States in 1988. The emergence of numerous scientific and legal issues led to the formation in 1989 of the National Research Council Committee on DNA Technology in Forensic Science. That committee's report, issued in 1992 (NRC 1992), affirmed the value of DNA typing for forensic analysis and hailed it as a major advance in the field of criminal investigation. In an introductory statement, the committee wrote:

We recommend that the use of DNA analysis for forensic purposes, including the resolution of both criminal and civil cases, be continued while improvements and changes suggested in this report are being made. There is no need for a general moratorium on the use of the results of DNA typing either in investigation or in the courts.

To improve the quality of DNA-typing information and its presentation in court, the report recommended various policies and practices, including

·      Completion of adequate research into the properties of typing methods to determine the circumstances under which they yield reliable and valid results (p 8, 61-63).1

·      Formulation and adherence to rigorous protocols (p 8, 97ff).

·      Creation of a national committee on forensic DNA typing to evaluate scientific and technical issues arising in the development and refinement of DNA-typing technology (p 8, 70-72).

·      Studies of the relative frequencies of distinct DNA alleles in 15-20 relatively homogeneous subpopulations (p 14, 90, 94).

·      A ceiling principle using, as a basis of calculation, the highest allele frequency in any subgroup or 5%, whichever is higher (p 14, 95).

·      A more conservative "interim ceiling principle" with a 10%  minimum until the ceiling principle can be implemented (p 14, 91-93).

·      Proficiency testing to measure error rates and to help interpret test results (p 15, 88-89).

·      Quality-assurance and quality-control programs (p 16, 97-109).

·      Mechanisms for accreditation of laboratories (p 17, 23, 100-101).

·      Increased funding for research, education, and development (p 17, 153).

·      Judicial notice of the scientific underpinnings of DNA typing (p 23, 133).

·      Financial support for expert witnesses (p 23, 148-149).

·      Databases and records freely available to all parties (p 23, 26, 93-95).

1 Page references indicate where the topics are discussed in the 1992 NRC report.



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