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Governor, NAACP Call for Reconsideration of DNA Bill

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Location: Columbia, SC


Governor, NAACP Call for Reconsideration of DNA Bill

GOV. SANFORD, DR. RANDOLPH ASK HOUSE, SENATE TO TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT VETO OVERRIDE

Governor Mark Sanford and S.C. NAACP President Dr. Lonnie Randolph today called on the S.C. General Assembly to reconsider its veto override of a new bill that mandates DNA storage in a national database upon arrest without the benefit of a trial.

"At its most basic level, this bill represents an erosion of one of our most basic rights as American citizens - innocent until proven guilty," Gov. Sanford said. "No one disputes the crime-solving capability of DNA evidence, but given the fact that DNA collection for suspects is already possible under current law this bill is a bridge too far. Add to that the cost that will ultimately be borne by the taxpayers in collecting and getting rid of 60 percent of the DNA samples obtained under this bill, when there are far better law-enforcement uses for those funds."

"We are obviously concerned about the potential for abuse of civil rights and civil liberties under this bill," Dr. Randolph said. "That's especially true for people who have been historically victimized by a legal system in which those with means have an inherent advantage over those without. The NAACP joins Governor Sanford in urging our elected leaders to reconsider this ill-conceived override."

Passed earlier this year, the bill would force collection of DNA from the roughly 150,000 people arrested in South Carolina each year and charged with felonies, including the roughly 60 percent of those people who are later found not guilty or guilty of a lesser charge. The bill would essentially require the state to spend $4 million yearly on collecting, analyzing and storing DNA samples that would ultimately have to be destroyed.

The governor said what was more troubling about the bill, however, is its infringement on privacy rights and civil liberties. Currently, law enforcement can already seek a DNA sample from an arrestee via a court order. This bill removes that important check in the system, and weakening a fundamental right of innocent until proven guilty.

While the bill requires the destruction of the DNA sample in cases where someone is arrested and later exonerated, it does not address the uses of that evidence before guilt or innocence is determined. There are no guarantees that the information would be removed from the federal database. As well, while some have insisted that DNA is similar to fingerprinting, fingerprints cannot be used to determine genetic information like familial relationships and propensity to get certain diseases.


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