A day after the Supreme Court ruled defendants have no constitutional right to a review of DNA evidence in post-conviction proceedings, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. underscored the Justice Department position that seeks to expand access to DNA evidence in the courts.
Addressing the 34th Annual D.C. Courts’ Judicial Conference today in Washington, Holder, the keynote speaker, spoke about the impact of technological advances on the administration of justice, and he vowed the Justice Department will embrace science and technology.
Law enforcement, Holder told the audience, which was brimming with local and federal judges, is placing “more emphasis on DNA evidence than ever before” in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.
“And we are mindful that DNA evidence can be used to exonerate those who are wrongfully charged,” Holder said today. “Our mission at the Justice Department is not simply to win cases. It is to do justice, and science and DNA can help us accomplish this.”
Yesterday, Holder issued a statement in response to the Supreme Court 5-4 decision in District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne that said, in part: “Constitutional rights are only one part of a fair and full system of justice. Simply because a course of action is constitutional does not make it wise.” Holder said in the statement that the Court “merely spoke about what is constitutional, not what is good policy.”
In his remarks today, Holder said the greatest risk to the administration of justice is not the emergence of new technology but to failures to “stay true” to values “as old as the republic itself.”
“Recent history has shown that there are pitfalls to snap judgments,” Holder said. “While some people believe that decisive leadership means taking immediate action, we know that true leadership means taking the time to get it right.”
There were light moments in Holder’s 10-minute talk at The Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center. Holder said it was "good to be among friends"—Holder is a former D.C. Superior Court judge—after getting grilled on Capitol Hill this week at the Senate Judiciary Committee. "And you guys can't ask me questions," Holder said. "You just have to listen."
Holder questioned whether Chief Judge Eric Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals has a BlackBerry—yes, he does—and whether Washington uses it. Yes, again.
Holder is an iPhone man. The new version of the phone comes out today.