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Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I rise in support of the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act.

Katie's Law is named for Katie Sepich, a bright, vivacious 22-year-old from New Mexico who was brutally assaulted, raped, and murdered in 2003. Police were able to extract the DNA profile of her killer from underneath Katie's fingernails, but they got no match in the offender database. When they finally did get a hit on the attacker's DNA 3 years later, they discovered that the murderer had been arrested repeatedly after 2003, but because he was never convicted, he was not required to submit a DNA sample for the database. Had New Mexico required arrestees to submit a DNA sample, Katie's killer would have been apprehended and taken off the street years earlier.

Katie's Law applies the lesson that New Mexico and now 24 States across the country have learned: arrestee testing works. This bill would create a new category of grants for States that collect DNA from arrestees for certain felonies. By joining the 25 States, plus the Federal Government, that already collect DNA from arrestees, additional State participation will make the national DNA index system more effective in helping to solve violent crimes. It does so without authorizing any new spending and while protecting civil liberties by putting in place strong expungement requirements.

We passed very similar legislation in 2010 with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. In the few short days we have left before the end of this year, we have a window to potentially send this bill to the Senate, where we'll also attract bipartisan support. I believe we should take that opportunity.

It has been argued by my colleague that we should wait to consider this bill until the Supreme Court rules on Maryland v. King, the case in which the Maryland State Supreme Court overturned the State's arrestee testing statute on Fourth Amendment grounds. I would simply note that three Federal courts of appeals and the State Supreme Court of California have looked at arrestee testing, and all have found it constitutional. The Supreme Court also took the unusual step of staying the order of the Maryland court. In his order staying the Maryland decision, Chief Justice Roberts writes:

Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provides a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population. Crimes for which DNA evidence is implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland may not employ a duly enacted statute to help prevent these injuries constitutes irreparable harm.

This is a practice that is used in 25 States and by the Federal Government. It is not new. I'm confident the practice will be upheld by the Court. And even if we are wrong, the Court will decide this case long before any grant funding would be dedicated to help States build arrestee collection laws, so no funding would be wasted.

I want to acknowledge my friend and colleague, Chairman Smith, who has been so supportive of this effort and has done such a marvelous job chairing the Judiciary Committee. I also want to acknowledge Ranking Member Conyers and the ranking member of the subcommittee, Bobby Scott, for their great work on the committee and subcommittee. I also want to thank my colleague from Washington (Mr. Reichert), who knows firsthand the power of DNA evidence from his years as a sheriff. And finally and most importantly, I thank Katie's family and her mother, Jayann Sepich. Jayann has endured every parent's worst nightmare. Her determination and dedication are inspiring. And when Katie's Law is signed into law--and it will be--it will be a testament to her work and her love for her daughter.

Mr. Speaker, I urge the House to pass Katie's Law.

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