Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he will co-sponsor legislation to provide state law enforcement agencies with incentives to require mandatory DNA fingerprinting for anyone who was arrested for a violent crime. 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 to killers and violent offenders who, though apprehended, may go undetected for earlier crimes.
“DNA testing for criminals is the fingerprinting of the modern era and we need to move full steam ahead, in places like New York that are lagging behind, to get up to speed on this 21st century crime-fighting technology. It is accurate and effective, and gives police officers, detectives and investigators access to information that will put violent offenders behind bars and off the street,” said Schumer. “When law enforcement has a suspect in custody and that person matches a DNA fingerprint from previous crime, countless lives can be protected from future mayhem that individual might perpetrate. You can’t put a price on that. 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 – and increase the effectiveness of – of fighting crime.”
Schumer made the announcement at the Utica Police Station, joined by members of local law enforcement, as well as Mayor David Roefaro, Utica Police Chief Mark Williams, and representatives from Oneida County District Attorney’s office. The Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act is named after Katie Sepich, a young woman from New Mexico who 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, he 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 will be reintroduced in the coming Congress. The legislation has bipartisan support.
There are countless instances across the country each year where a DNA database is successfully used to put a criminal behind bars for their crimes. In October of 2005, the Utica Police investigated an alleged burglary of a local liquor store. The investigation revealed that the criminal broke out a front window to the business and removed a case of wine, cutting himself in the process. Police collected broken, blood-stained glass from the scene and, in this case, submitted it to the N.Y. State Police Forensic Investigation Center. In March of 2006, Richard Peplinski was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in state prison as a 3rd time drunk driver. In June of 2006, Peplinski voluntarily consented to having a sample taken so that he could participate in prison recreation programs. In June of 2007, a standard periodic search of DNA from unsolved crimes revealed a match between the swab of glass submitted in connection with the 2005 burglary and Peplinski, therefore tying him to the earlier, unsolved robbery. Peplinski, when confronted with the evidence, then admitted to having burglarized the liquor store.
DNA finger printing could have helped stop a 2006 crime in nearby 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.
The bill would save taxpayer money by reducing costly investigations associated with false leads. A study in Indiana estimated that taxpayers spend over $2,000 per crime for officer response, investigation, prosecution, and adjudication. Catching repeat offenders early will reduce costs over time and save valuable manpower. Additionally, Katie’s Law requires that current federal privacy laws be adhered to and that any DNA profile of an arrestee that is not convicted must be expunged.
“Too many families in Utica 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 Utica and in communities across New York.”
Source: Senator Charles Schumer