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State's crime laboratory system
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Continues effort to speed up analysis of DNA crime kits, give law enforcement best possible evidentiary tools

[JULY 22, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Building on his effort to strengthen the state's crime laboratories, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday signed three bills into law that will help prosecutors and law enforcement officers gain access to valuable evidence more quickly. House Bill 4424, Senate Bill 2201 and Senate Bill 3014 will help ensure that DNA cases, including sexual assault cases, are solved in a more timely fashion and that laboratory operations are of the highest standards.

"Public safety has consistently been a high priority for my administration. These bills will support our continuing effort to use the best technology available to bring criminals to justice and vindicate the innocent," Gov. Blagojevich said.

The Illinois State Police oversees the DNA testing and analysis of sexual assault kits and other criminal evidence and currently has more than 40,000 offender samples in its database. The All Felons Act, passed in August 2002, mandated the collection of DNA samples from all convicted felons, including those already incarcerated in the state's prisons. The act significantly increased the number of cases being sent to Illinois State Police crime labs. To help the labs catch up with demand, Gov. Blagojevich in January committed an additional $2.6 million to helping clear the DNA backlog. As a result, the backlog has been drastically reduced from 1,113 cases in January to just 176 cases. The funding also allowed the department to hire more forensics personnel, who are currently taking part in an accelerated training program.

The bills signed Wednesday will help keep the backlog under control and will maximize the benefits of the DNA analysis for prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

House Bill 4424 requires that all sexual assault evidence already housed in the state's crime labs but not yet analyzed must be tested within two years of the bill's signing, if resources and staffing are available. For all evidence collected after the bill's signing, the analysis must be done within one year's time. Improving the timeliness of the comparisons will help to clear investigative case backlogs.

Additionally, the bill requires the Illinois State Police to compare any DNA from the evidence to both the Illinois State Police and FBI Combined DNA Index System databases. These databases combine forensic science and computer technology into an effective tool for solving violent crimes and enable federal, state and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders.

The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2005. It was sponsored by Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins, D-Chicago, and Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago.

 

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Senate Bill 3014, also signed by Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday, deals directly with the DNA backlog. This bill requires the Illinois State Police to annually report the backlog of cases awaiting testing or DNA analysis in its forensic laboratory system. The agency will detail the measures being taken to reduce the backlog, such as the outsourcing of cases or the hiring of additional personnel, and the resources needed to do so. The report is due to the governor and the General Assembly each year on Feb. 1.

With all the information in one concise report on an annual basis, the governor and General Assembly will be able to monitor the progress of the testing and analysis and respond accordingly to any critical needs. Additionally, the bill provides for the information in the report to be made available to the public on the official website of the Illinois State Police.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Westmont, and Rep. Patricia R. Bellock, R-Westmont.

Senate Bill 2201, the third crime-lab bill signed into law by the governor on Wednesday, creates the Illinois Laboratory Advisory Committee. This committee will focus on improving proficiency and quality in all private and state laboratories conducting scientific testing, including forensic testing. The committee will make recommendations on improving policy and procedures for information disclosure to defense and prosecution counsel. It will also examine issues ranging from staffing and funding needs to ways to enhance Illinois homeland security through the coordination of laboratory services with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force.

The 15-member oversight committee, appointed by the heads of state agencies and law enforcement officials, will consist of scientists and attorneys with expertise in scientific evidence. All members will be unpaid.

The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2005. It was sponsored by Sen. John J. Cullerton, D-Chicago, and Rep. Marlow Colvin, D-Chicago.

The three bills will serve to improve the timeliness, information sharing and overall efficiency of the nine laboratories in the Illinois State Police forensic science laboratory system.

[News release from the governor's office]

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