[REACT] Should DNA Samples Be Run On Violent Criminals?
A bill proposed by the General Assembly, based on laws in other states, would allow DNA sampling of convicted felons.
Two bills currently up for debate by members of the Rhode Island General Assembly would allow for testing of the stored DNA of felons to DNA collected from open cases.
The legislation is modeled after existing laws in about 25 states, according to a release from the Legislative Press Bureau. For full details, see the full release below. Both bills are currently assigned to judicial committees, as of January.
What do you think of the bills? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom!
Release courtesy the Legislative Press Bureau.
It has been a decade since a young woman was brutally murdered in New Mexico, a crime that went unsolved for three years. Katie Sepich’s parents believe the person who murdered their daughter could have been brought to justice sooner, had a sample of his DNA from previous arrests been available to law enforcement officials.
From that incident came “Katie’s Law,” promoted by her parents, Jayann and Dave, and now in force in some form in nearly half the states in the nation.
Legislation to enact a “Katie’s Law” in Rhode Island has again this year been introduced by Sen. David E. Bates (R-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence) and Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly), who have sponsored similar bills in previous session.
Both legislators say they believe the use of DNA sampling as an investigative tool has been well documented and that expanding it in Rhode Island to include those arrested for felonies and crimes of violence will help law enforcement solve crimes and prosecute more violent criminals.
Like most other states, Rhode Island statutes currently require collection of a DNA sample from individuals who are convicted of a felony.
Under the legislation introduced by the two legislator, 2013-S 0041 and 2013-H 5205, DNA samples would be collected from individuals arrested for crimes of violence: murder, manslaughter, first degree arson, kidnapping with intent to extort, robbery, larceny from the person, first degree sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, first and second degree child molestation, assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to commit first degree sexual assault, burglary, and entering a dwelling house with intent to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, or larceny.
The collected DNA samples would be included in the Rhode Island DNA database to be administered by the FBI’s national DNA identification index system, which allows for the storage and exchange of DNA records submitted by state and local forensic DNA laboratories for the identification and/or exclusion of individuals who are the subject of criminal investigations or prosecutions.
The bill provides for expungement of DNA samples taken from felony arrestees if the case is not charged through indictment or if the case is dismissed by the state or by a court or by a not guilty verdict after trail.
“It remains my belief that this bill will go a long way in keeping the people of Rhode Island safe,” said Representative Kennedy. “This sets up a system where repeat offenders are caught early and lives can be saved by getting these violent individuals off the streets.”
“It is also important to note,” said Senator Bates, “that while DNA can be useful in convicting a criminal of a violent crime, it can also help exonerate an innocent person who has been wrongly accused of a crime.”
Co-sponsors of the Bates bill this year are Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), Sen. Dawson Tucker Hodgson (R-Dist. 35, East Greenwich, Narragansett, North Kingstown, South Kingstown) and Sen. Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly). The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Co-sponsors of the Kennedy bill include Rep. Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Peter G. Palumbo (D-Dist. 16, Cranston) and Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry). The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.