Governor Commissions DNA Working Group

During the last 20 years or so, thousands of cases have been solved by DNA evidence and despite a smoothly running system in Colorado, Governor Bill Ritter has recently commissioned a new working group to see if improvements can be made.

The group, which is made up of 21 people with different areas of expertise, was proposed to Governor Ritter by the Colorado District Attorney's Council with the hopes of possibly improving the state's criminal justice system.

While DNA evidence has become a benchmark tool in solving crime and convicting criminals, with a vast web of cooperating law enforcement agencies, problems sometimes arise.

So at the direction of Governor Ritter, working group will focus on several areas, particularly preservation.

"If you have a vehicular homicide, are we supposed to hang onto a car from here to eternity? For a small department, the cost of doing that could devastate small department's budget," work group member and Representative Steve King said.

So with budgetary size differing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, some outside the group are suggesting funded mandates if uniform storage regulations are introduced.

"If the state tells the Mesa County Sheriff's Office or the Delta Sheriff's Department or whoever to hold onto DNA forever. but not give money for storage and additional staff, that's a problem," Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said.

The bottom line for the group is to strengthen the Colorado criminal justice system and to make sure DNA evidence will always play a role in proving guilt and preserving innocence.

The group is continuing to meet and discuss the future possibilities and are expected to present its findings and possible recommendations sometime in the fall.