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Fact Sheet: Ensuring Justice and Fairness for All Americans

February 02, 2005

Presidential Action

An important part of the American character is our system of justice, and we have a solemn obligation to make sure that cases involving the death penalty have been handled in full accordance with all the guarantees of our Constitution. The foundations of America's democracy depend on the assurance of fairness in our legal system.

The President is committed to ensuring justice and fairness in America's legal system by providing full funding for the use of DNA evidence to solve crime and prevent wrongful convictions, and additional training for defense counsel to help ensure people on trial for their lives have competent attorneys at their side. Additional training will also help ensure prosecutors and judges have skills they need to ensure a fair trial.

Background on Presidential Action

American unity is strengthened by our confident belief in a fair and accurate legal system.

  • DNA technology can be vital in ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. DNA can be used to identify criminals with incredible accuracy when biological evidence exists, and DNA can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes.
    • DNA backlogs overwhelm many public crime labs, and these labs need help automating equipment to handle the increasing influx of DNA samples and evidence and to prevent future backlogs. The problems of backlogs and the lack of up-to-date technology can result in significant delays in the administration of justice.
    • More research is needed to develop faster, less expensive methods for analyzing DNA evidence; and
    • More training is needed for professionals in the criminal justice system to ensure the optimal use of DNA evidence to solve crimes and assist victims.
  • Individuals on trial for their lives deserve competent attorneys. In addition to the Federal government, 38 states have death penalty laws. In 2003, 144 offenders received the death sentence in the United States. The integrity of the legal system requires that defendants have competent representation.

The President is committed to ensuring fairness and justice for all Americans in our legal system.

  • President Bush urged Congress to fully fund his DNA Initiative to solve crime and protect the innocent from wrongful conviction through elimination of existing backlogs of DNA samples, strengthening lab capacity, expanding testing for convicted offenders, training for law enforcement and attorneys on the use of DNA, and using DNA to identify missing persons and bring closure to victims. As part of the President's five-year, $1 billion DNA Initiative, the President's FY 2006 budget supports $236 million in Federal funding. These reforms benefit victims and the accused by identifying the guilty and exonerating the innocent.
  • President Bush's new proposal will provide additional training for defense counsel, prosecutors, and judges for state capital cases to help ensure they are adequately trained to handle capital trials. The President proposed $50 million over three years, including $20 million in FY 2006, for training private defense counsel and public defenders, state and local prosecutors, and state judges to help ensure the competence and effectiveness of all participants connected with the trial of state capital cases. In addition, once trained, the lawyers who have undergone the training can serve as advisors to other lawyers in particular cases.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Ensuring Justice and Fairness for All Americans Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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