Experts look at expanded use of DNA technology

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and leading experts in the field of DNA technology gathered at Cal State Los Angeles on Wednesday to explore the use of biological crime-scene evidence in the pursuit of justice and enhanced public safety."The benefit of quickly and accurately identifying perpetrators of heinous crimes through DNA analysis cannot be understated," Cooley said. "Our challenge is to expand and improve DNA technology and its uses in the criminal justice system. Scientific advancements now allow us to analyze smaller forensic samples faster than ever before." The Ninth Annual DNA Awareness Educational Forum & Awards Luncheon was held at California State University, Los Angeles. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and former California Gov. Gray Davis were among those in attendance. Each year, the symposium draws more than 400 attorneys, law enforcement personnel, criminalists, health care professionals and victim advocates. The conference encourages interagency collaboration and offers participants an opportunity to learn more about the expanding role of DNA evidence as a crime-fighting tool. Additionally, the symposium serves as a platform for discussing public policy issues, such as the use of "familial" DNA searches. Familial searching expands the traditional DNA data bank search to detect potential relatives of an offender. With strong support and encouragement from Cooley, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced in 2007 that California would begin drafting a familial DNA policy to enable law enforcement to seek out close matches. The first successful execution of this new scientific technique came this summer with the arrest of the so-called "Grim Sleeper" serial killer. Defendant Lonnie Franklin Jr. is charged with 10 murders and one attempted murder in a case spanning 25 years. Wednesday's symposium featured presentations on the Alcala serial killer case, efforts for eliminating the DNA backlog and a discussion on Hollywood's CSI Effect, among other topics. Achievement awards were presented to four recipients: Gov. Davis, former Assembly Speaker Robert M. Hertzberg, the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Forensic Services and Detective Dennis Kilcoyne of the Los Angeles Police Department's Cold Case Special Section. Kilcoyne is the lead investigator in the "Grim Sleeper" case.

********** Published: September 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 22