NCSTL Hosts DNA for Defense Seminar
Diana Botluk, NCSTL Director of Research
On March 14-15, 2011, NCSTL was pleased to host the first DNA for Defense seminar. Eighty-seven criminal defense attorneys from across the United States gathered in Clearwater, Florida, to learn about the use of DNA evidence in criminal cases.
The seminar kicked off with an introduction to DNA basics. Anjali Swienton, NCSTL Director of Outreach, and Catherine Cothran, Palm Beach County Sherriff's Office Crime Laboratory Senior Forensic Scientist, met with an enthusiastic audience as they discussed the basic science of DNA. For a lunchtime change of pace, Diana Botluk, NCSTL Director of Research, demonstrated NCSTL.org and other online forensic science research resources. In the afternoon, Christine Funk, Assistant State Public Defender from Hastings, Minnesota, explored discovery issues and getting to know a case with DNA evidence. Rounding out the first day, Christopher Plourd, attorney from San Diego, California, discussed evaluation, assessment, and response to DNA evidence.
The seminar's second day began with a lively discussion about laboratory issues as they relate to DNA, led by Ms. Cothran. She also presented information about understanding test results. She explored what lawyers should know with regard to how DNA analysts evaluate test results, including points that attorneys should discuss with their expert witnesses. The discussion explored issues relating to DNA databases and DNA statistics. Seminar participants were also treated to words of wisdom from Ms. Funk, who shared the basics of pretrial preparation as it relates to DNA. She discussed such issues as whether the defense should request testing, DNA collection, and other evidentiary issues. Finally, Mr. Plourd and Ms. Funk explored trial issues relevant to DNA evidence.
DNA for Defense is a project funded by the United States National Institute of Justice. Besides training seminars, the project will include an online interactive training program, expected later this year.