Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his legislation to provide state law enforcement agencies with incentives to require mandatory DNA fingerprinting for anyone who was arrested for a violent crime was included in the must pass "Justice For All Act." The JAA is the main vehicle for funding federal programs that help states with DNA and other forensic evidence, and is set to pass this summer. The law would help states cover the cost of this technology. Currently, the federal government and 23 states use DNA to identify persons arrested for violent crimes; New York, however, is not one of those states. The legislation will provide financial incentives for states to utilize more sophisticated crime fighting tools to bring to justice killers and violent offenders who, though apprehended, may go undetected for earlier crimes.
"DNA testing has proven to be accurate and effective, and giving police officers, detectives and investigators access to vast resources will help put violent offenders behind bars and off the street," said Schumer. "By spreading this technology to states across the country, we can make the streets of our cities safer for our families, and dramatically reduce the cost of fighting crime. Getting our legislation into the Justice For All Act is a tremendously important step towards Katie's law getting on the books."
The Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act is named after Katie Sepich, a young woman from New Mexico was raped and murdered by a man who was caught for another crime just three months after Katie's murder, but was let go by authorities who did not have any evidence of a connection. Had DNA been obtained from the suspect, he would have been immediately connected to Katie's murder, instead, we was released and not brought back into police custody for another 3 years. The legislation was introduced last Congress by Senators Jeff Bingaman, Michael Bennet, Daniel Inouye, Tom Udall and Charles Schumer and has bipartisan support.
DNA finger printing also could have helped stop a 2006 crime in Onondaga County. Glen Shoop was arrested in Onondaga County after raping his estranged wife, and a DNA sample was taken. Detectives noticed similarities to an unsolved case from East Syracuse six years earlier and proceeded to compare his profile to the DNA from the previous case file. Prosecutors were constrained by evidence procedures so they could not use the DNA to tie him to the 2000 murder based on this comparison, and had to wait until he had been convicted in the 2006 case before officially comparing the profile in the 2000 case. Due to this obstacle, Shoop was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of imprisoning his wife and was free on bail when he failed to appear for sentencing. He then proceeded to sexually assault and murder a sixty-five year old woman. Had Shoop's DNA been available in a database, a strong conviction and harsh sentence would have put him behind bars earlier, stopping the rape and murder that eventually warranted a 40 year sentence.
The bill would incentivize states to meet minimum standards for arrestee DNA collection. The minimum standard asks states to collect DNA samples from those arrested for, indicted for, or charged with certain violent felonies and compare these samples with pre-existing records in the national DNA database. States that comply with this minimum standard or implement a stricter enhanced standard will be eligible for additional federal assistance equivalent to the first year costs associated with the improved collection process.
"Too many families in Syracuse and other cities have answered the door bell to see police officers waiting to inform them that a loved one had fallen victim to a violent crime," continued Schumer. "This law will help local and state law enforcement combat the growing violent crime problem here in Syracuse and in communities across New York."