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Just Science Podcast: Just Lawfully Owed DNA

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2021

This first episode in the series entitled “Research and Considerations for Sexual Assault Cases” of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Dr. Rachel Lovell, Research Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University, and Mary Weston, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney at the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, who discuss lawfully owed DNA.


Background information for the interview defines “lawfully owed DNA” as “a sample of DNA from a qualifying offender that should have been entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) but was not.” It is further noted that although legislation may state that a qualifying offender’s DNA sample must be submitted into CODIS, historically this has not always been done. This results in thousands of lawfully owed DNA samples being absent from CODIS. Mary Weston and Dr. Rachel Lovell are currently committed to correcting this issue in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. In the current interview, they discuss the collection of lawfully owed DNA samples and the potential legal and research implications associated with DNA collection and reporting to CODIS. The interview focuses on the cooperative work of Weston and Lovell in analyzing the extent and underlying causes of DNA swabbing failing to occur in the processing of sexual assault cases or the failure to submit DNA results to CODIS. Their work in Cuyahoga County is discussed, with attention to the importance of partnering with the Prosecutor’s Office in analyzing the issue of lawfully owed DNA. The interview notes failures in establishing, maintaining, and monitoring processing checklists that include DNA swabbing of crime scenes, arrestees, and suspects in sexual assault and other cases.  Interagency access to case-processing data is also discussed. They suggest that case processing procedures and events must be regularly monitored to ensure that DNA swabbing is occurring, being recorded in case-processing events, and reported to CODIS.


Date Published: July 1, 2021