Forensic Sciences

Changes in crime scene management, forensic evidence collection techniques, and use of technology have revolutionized the criminal justice system. ILJ is at the center of research into the application of state-of-the-art technology and methods in the criminal justice arena. ILJ has conducted several research studies for the National Institute of Justice, as well as a study for the Attorney General of the United States.

Past Projects

Social Science Research on the Role and Impact of Forensic Evidence on the Criminal Justice Process

The purpose of this study was to determine the role of forensic evidence in the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes. Sites for the study include Denver, Colorado; San Diego, California; and Miami-Dade, Florida. In Denver and San Diego, ILJ obtained information on over 4,000 serious crimes (homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary). The emphasis was on forensic evidence collected and analyzed for each crime. Forensic evidence includes latent prints, DNA evidence, ballistics evidence, trace evidence, and others. Cases will be tracked from investigation to final prosecutorial disposition. In Miami-Dade, ILJ conducted a study to determine whether the speed of processing biological evidence from crime scenes affects case clearance rates. This study included over 900 no-suspect property crimes for which crime scene specialists collected DNA evidence at the scenes.

Evaluation of the Improving Investigation Outcomes Project

ILJ conducted an evaluation of the Improving Investigation Outcomes program sponsored by the National Institute of Justice in Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the state of Georgia. Each site established a team of key individuals from law enforcement investigations, the crime laboratory, district attorney’s office, and defense bar to address problems related to the investigation and prosecution of serious offenses that have forensic evidence. The teams addressed problems with backlogs of forensic analysis in the crime laboratories, the impact of high priority requests for analysis from police and prosecutors, determinations of the forensic evidence that the crime lab should analyze in a case, and others. ILJ conducted an evaluation of the progress that the sites made in resolving these selected problems.

Exculpatory Use of DNA Testing in Post-Conviction Proceedings

For the Attorney General, ILJ completed a study of cases involving the exculpatory use of DNA testing to free convicted defendants from prison. A resulting publication was issued by the National Institute of Justice, Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence after Trial. A review of news articles, reported case decisions and reports from practitioners involved in DNA testing identified 28 cases in which there had been exculpatory DNA testing. Information about each case was gathered from these sources and from telephone interviews with the attorneys in the 28 cases.

National Forensic Laboratory Information System

On behalf of the Bureau of Justice Assistance and in conjunction with the Criminal Justice Statistics Association, ILJ developed a crime laboratory information system. The system operates on microcomputers in either a standalone or network environment. Functions of the system include, for example, evidence intake, evidence tracking, analysis results, personnel assignments, and case backlogs. The system operates in a real-time environment allowing users to make inquiries on cases. It also produces numerous output reports on the volume of cases handled by a laboratory and case dispositions.

Sample Publications and Products

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