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Demand for DNA testing creating national backlog

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Raymond Holder spent nine months in a Virginia jail falsely accused of brutally raping a 12-year-old girl.

Holder was eventually freed by DNA evidence. He had asked police to conduct a DNA test when he was arrested, telling them it would clear him. But he had to wait nine months before test results exonerated him.

With an accuracy rate of more than 99 percent, DNA testing has become a valuable crime-fighting tool. But the demand for its use has grown so large that government laboratories are struggling to keep up.

A backlog of untested DNA samples is limiting the technology's effectiveness, say forensic experts.

CNN's Kelli Arena reports there is a backlog in requests for DNA tests that could potentially free the wrongfully accused from prison (August 30)

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The Justice Department estimates more than 750,000 samples collected from convicts across the United States are waiting to be tested, with another 50,000 coming in each month.

An additional 180,000 rape kits collected from the scenes of sexual assaults have not been tested.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the average DNA sample is not tested for six months, and that in some cases, the statute of limitations for prosecuting a case expires before the tests are completed.

Earlier this month, Ashcroft announced the Justice Department would offer $30 million in grants to help state DNA labs catch up.

Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena examines the impact the backlog has had on Raymond Holder's life, as well as the effort to cut away the backlog of DNA cases waiting testing..


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