Lee Davis: Supreme Court Justices Grapple With Critical DNA Testing Case

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Adam Liptak at the New York Times discussed a crucial case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and how the impact of the decision could be felt across police stations and in court rooms across the country for years to come. The justices appeared to be aware of just how important the case was, with Justice Alito saying that he though it was possibly “the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades.”

The case deals with whether police are allowed to take DNA samples from people who have been arrested. The case began after a suspect in Maryland, Alonzo Jay King, Jr.
, was arrested on assault charges back in 2009. A sample of King’s DNA was taken by swabbing his cheek at the time of his arrest, but prior to any conviction, and it later matched evidence from a rape that took place several years prior. King was eventually convicted for the rape and appealed the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals which agreed that taking DNA from those arrested but not yet convicted violates the Fourth Amendment.

While it may be true the DNA collection process is valuable to police departments and has helped nabbed criminals, that does not mean it should be permitted, a point aptly made by Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia, in responding to a claim that the DNA evidence helped obtain 42 convictions in Maryland, said it was great news and he thought if the police conducted a bunch of other unreasonable searches and seizures they might get even more. He made clear that he thought the effectiveness of the program proved nothing. In an odd alliance, Justice Ginsburg voiced her agreement that the DNA testing practice might be problematic under the Fourth Amendment which requires a warrant before police can conduct a search.

The justices never even discussed the issue of collecting DNA from suspects who had already been convicted of crimes, instead the issue was solely over what the Fourth Amendment might say regarding those suspects who have only been arrested. Justice Roberts said that while Maryland’s law limits the DNA samples to those arrested for serious crimes, there was nothing preventing the law from siding down a slippery slope, perhaps authorizing such DNA searches for everyone pulled over for speeding. Playing a good devil’s advocate, Roberts also said he wondered about the expectation of privacy in DNA when it can be so easily obtained. For instance, Roberts said that simply taking a sip of water leaves behind a wealth of private information.

Alito said that the technology at issue is potentially hugely important and could be used to solve a multitude of murders, rapes and other heinous crimes. He appeared to see the value of it, asking, “Why isn’t this the fingerprinting of the 21st century?” This issue seemed to be the focus of oral arguments, with King’s attorneys saying that DNA and fingerprints differ in that fingerprints are used almost solely to identify people while DNA is used to solve cold cases. We’ll have to wait a while to hear what the justices think.

Source: “Justices Wrestle Over Allowing DNA Sampling at Time of Arrest,” by Adam Liptak, published at NYTimes.com.


---

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


JAN-Pro Expands Commercial Cleaning Franchise

Throughout 2014, JAN-PRO expanded its network of more than 10,000 owner-operators across the United States with a focus in Chattanooga. JAN-PRO janitorial franchises serve offices, health care facilities, schools and other commercial spaces.  Most recently, JAN-PRO has succeeded in its social media efforts with new Regional Master Franchisee Anthony Burton, modeling an approach ... (click for more)

New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: ABSTON AMP & GUITAR REP 835 RUNYAN DR CHATTANOOGA, TN 37405 ANCHORED ALLIANCES 59 FAIRHILLS DR CHATTANOOGA, TN 37405 ASHLEY ENTERPRISES INC 1020 E 13TH ST CHATTANOOGA, TN 37408 BEAMHIT INC 4824 HIXSON PK STE B HIXSON, TN 37343 CHATTANOOGA STONE CENTER 7731 LEE HIGHWAY ... (click for more)

Mayor Berke Announces Plan To Provide High-Speed Internet At A Discount Price To Those With Low Incomes

Mayor Andy Berke, in his annual State of the City Address, on Monday announced the creation of the Netbridge Student Discount program. In the partnership with EPB, he said any family of a child eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch in schools can receive 100 megabits per second Internet at a cost of $26.99 per month." Mayor Berke said, "Think about it. Our low income families ... (click for more)

DA Tells Dalton Jury Cell Phone Of Skyy Mims Was Found At Murder Scene

District Attorney Bert Poston told a jury in Dalton on Monday that the cell phone of Skyy Mims was found at the scene of the murder of convenience store clerk DK Chaudhari. He said Ms. Mims carried out the robbery in order to get Lotto tickets that she hoped would bring her money to finance her budding musical career. He said she took 80 "$500 A Week For Life" tickets. The ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The P.S. To A Sad Story

Back in the days when we were determined that the Chattanooga News-Free Press would have the best sports section in the country, I was traveling a whole lot. For example, back then I would be leaving today or tomorrow for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, this after hardly recovering from a week spent at The Masters. And, as it happens with those who are constantly in search for tomorrow’s ... (click for more)