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Lockyer: State's Dna Lab Backlog Eliminated
(BERKELEY) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced today that the backlog of unanalyzed convicted felon blood samples in the state's DNA laboratory has been eliminated.
"When I took office two years ago, more than 100,000 blood samples from convicted felons were sitting in cold storage, rather than being analyzed and compared to DNA taken from crime scene evidence. Blood samples in refrigerators do not help the police solve crimes, so I made it a top priority, a commitment, to eliminate this backlog," said Lockyer. "Today, when our lab receives a blood sample, the DNA analysis process begins immediately. The results are evident: Just this year, we have made cold hits at the rate of one per week, and we have made as many cold hits this year as we have in the previous seven years combined."
Since 1986, California law has required blood and saliva samples to be taken from individuals convicted of any of nine specified felony sex and violent crimes. The samples yield DNA profiles, which are stored in the DOJ Convicted Felon Databank. DNA profiles extracted from crime scene evidence are compared to the profiles in the Databank, and a match in an unsolved case is considered a "cold hit." The local law enforcement agency and/or the local crime lab is notified about the identification and can then proceed appropriately with the information.
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) DNA Laboratory in Berkeley was opened in 1992, but until the late 1990s, the number of blood samples collected from specified convicted felons each year far exceeded the amount that could be analyzed at the DNA Lab. Advances in technology, some of which were developed at the DOJ DNA Lab, allowed the lab to keep pace with the number of samples collected for a few years, but by 1999, more than 100,000 blood samples remained either unanalyzed or analyzed using a DNA format that was no longer preferred.
Upon taking office in 1999, Lockyer pledged to eliminate that backlog by July, 2001, when the number of blood samples received by the DNA lab was projected to exceed 200,000. With the support of Governor Davis, the lab received an additional $4.5 million for budget year 1999-2000 and $9.9 million for budget year 2000-2001 to hire new staff, purchase new equipment and provide training in DNA technology to begin to reduce the backlog.
"The people that work in our DNA lab took on what many of our critics said was an impossible task. As a result of their efforts, all of the 200,000-plus blood samples received by the lab have been processed," said Lockyer. "But even now, the use of DNA technology to help solve crimes is still in its' early stages, and I believe our DNA Databank would be even more effective if we add other offenses that require an offender to be included."
In order to increase the number of suspects identified and crimes solved, Lockyer is sponsoring legislation (AB 673 - Migden) to add residential burglary, first-degree robbery, arson, and carjacking to the current list of qualifying offenses which includes rape, murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, domestic violence, kidnaping, child molestation, mayhem and torture.
A total of 41 suspects have been identified by the DOJ DNA Convicted Felon Databank since it was established in 1994. Twenty of these "cold hits" have been made since January 1, 2001, three of which have identified suspects in homicide cases that were more than 15 years old. The DNA Lab has more than 120 positions authorized and an annual operating budget of $12 million.