Moms push to allow police to collect DNA from suspected felons - KMSP-TV

Moms push to allow police to collect DNA from suspected felons

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It's a constitutional conundrum, but a U.S. Supreme Court decision has two mothers pushing to get a law allowing police officers to take DNA samples from those suspected of committing felonies reinstated.

Minnesota was one of the first states in the country to pass a law allowing police to obtain DNA samples from felony arrestees, but an appellate judge ruled that the practice violated the Fourth Amendment. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with that assessment -- and New Mexico's Jayann Sepich and Linda Walker say it's time to take another look.

"I would love to see Minnesota join the 29 other states that have passed this," Sepich told Fox 9 News.

Both mothers know the pain of losing a child at the hands of a murderer, and both believe that testing DNA from felony arrestees could help police connect the dots to other cases and save lives. Meanwhile, others say the law is an extreme violation of privacy, especially since those who are arrested are still presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"My daughter was very brutally raped and murdered in a random act of violence," Sepich, founder of the non-profit DNA Saves, said.

The organization Sepich heads is working to pass laws like the one she hopes to see re-enacted in Minnesota. In 2003, Katie Sepich was a 22-year-old graduate student studying in New Mexico. Although the law she's supporting would not have saved her daughter, she believes it would have helped police find her killer faster and prevented him from striking again.

"Our family knows the pain of burying a daughter, and we know that this law will prevent other families from going through that pain," she said. "So, it matters."

Just last year, the highest court in the nation ruled that requiring forensic testing does not violate constitutional rights; however, genetic privacy concerns surround the idea of collecting DNA from those arrested on felony charges.

"It's simply a huge difference in the amount of data collected," Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, told Fox 9 News. "It's not just about the person. It's about their entire family and relations."

Linda Walker, mother of Dru Sjodin -- who was murdered in North Dakota in 2003, believes that privacy concerns can be addressed through litigation. Furthermore, she believes that the law would likely be more liberating than intrusive.

"We can exonerate a lot of people as well that have been wrongly accused," she said.

According to DNA Saves, more than 300 people have been exonerated in the states that take and test DNA from those arrested on felony charges.

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