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U.S. Proposes to Spend One Billion in DNA Analysis in Crime - 2003-03-12


The U.S. government is proposing spending more than one billion dollars on DNA analysis in criminal cases over the next five years.

The technology is being hailed by law enforcement as a reliable tool in convicting criminal suspects and clearing those who may be wrongly convicted of a crime. All U.S. States now collect DNA samples from convicted felons.

VOA-TV’S Chris Simkins reports.

One U.S. State is taking DNA samples not just from those convicted but from suspects.

In 1992 in this Fairfax County, Virginia home Marilyn Bandera, a mother of three was stabbed to death 153 times. Fairfax detective Robert Murphy.

ROBERT MURPHY, FAIRFAX DETECTIVE
“The worst, absolutely the worst homicide that I have ever been associated with.”

The killer’s DNA, or genetic makeup, was found at the scene but police had no leads. They got a break after this man, Mack Reaves, was convicted of robbing a gas station. His DNA was entered into a state databank. Police finally had their killer.

ROBERT MURPHY, FAIRFAX DETECTIVE

“I do not know how we would have ever identified this guy without the DNA databank.”

The state of Virginia started collecting DNA from convicted felons in 1998.

PAUL FERRARA
“We have literally helped the police solve hundreds of homicides and rapes.”

Under a new state law in Virginia anyone arrested for a violent crime not only gets fingerprinted.

SOUNDBITE, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL TAKING DNA
“We have to take a DNA sample. You have got to rub it against your cheek. Pull it out.”

The samples are compared to DNA taken from clothing, cigarette butts and other evidence from a variety of crime scenes.

PAUL FERRARA, DIRECTOR VIRGINIA DIVISION OF FORENSIC SCIENCE
“In our first batch we made another cold (old case) hit.”

DNA samples are supposed to be destroyed if the charges are dropped. Opponents of the law say it will be challenged.

KENT WILLIS, VIRGINIA CHAPTER AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION
“A court will decide whether or not you can take DNA with no real reason other than an arrest.”

State officials predict the program will grow and other states will follow.

JERRY KILGORE, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL

We will see an expansion of DNA technology and the taking of DNA evidence to all points of arrests. I think it is the wave of the future.

The future expansion of the law is still being debated but DNA collection has already become an important tool in solving crimes of the past.

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