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DNA testing heralds hope of cutting crime

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2002

Assessing its short but stunning track record over the past decade, Attorney General John Ashcroft describes DNA analysis as the truth machine of law enforcement.

Seen through a wider prism, no tool has more potential to revive America's faith in its criminal justice system. That's a tall order for a very short acronym. ... But witness the monumental power of DNA analysis.

It exonerates the falsely convicted, freeing people who have been locked away for years. It convicts the rightly accused earlier in the process, sparing taxpayers the cost and victims the angst of lengthy trials. It brings resolution, if not closure, to the friends and family of those who have been murdered.

Moreover, the specter of DNA analysis -- if it becomes the gold standard throughout the country -- should deter crime in a way that capital punishment has failed to.

What would give a would-be killer pause: the prospect that he might, many years down the road, be executed or the knowledge that just tiny amounts of DNA (sloughed skin cells or a blot of saliva) could seal his guilt? And the testing's ability to nab criminals earlier and with dead-on accuracy should prevent a certain number from re-offending. ...

These advances will certainly be worthwhile but the best that DNA analysis has to offer is the gift, as Ashcroft says, of sparing Americans from ever being victimized.

--Seattle Post-Intelligencer

March 13



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