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Mothers of Victims Applaud Federal Effort to Collect DNA Upon Arrest

Law to Require DNA from Arrestees Will Solve and Prevent Crimes

CARLSBAD, N.M., April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Several mothers of murdered children joined together in praising the efforts of US Attorney General Michael Mukasey in bringing forward a rule that will finally allow implementation of forensic DNA testing provisions enacted by Congress in late 2005. These families have each been active in advocating for arrestee laws in their own states. The federal law requires a DNA sample from anyone arrested under federal jurisdiction and for non-US citizens who face deportation. The group issued the following statement:

"We are not experts in public policy or genetic scientists. We are simply mothers whose children have been unfairly victimized by violent criminals. Families whose unspeakable journey has brought us to learn about the wonderful law enforcement tool of DNA and the unreasonable limits placed upon its use. We applaud the federal government in moving forward with these arrestee testing requirements -- not just because of our own experiences, but also with the hope of solving and more importantly preventing similar tragedies throughout the country. Moreover, the power of DNA benefits the entire criminal justice system -- it can exonerate the wrongly accused or convicted just as it identifies the true perpetrator.

"We believe that all Americans have a right to expect that our law enforcement will have access to the best tools available to correctly identify criminals, and what tool is better than DNA? For many victims, DNA is the ONLY evidence available to police in identifying suspects. Without it in many cases, justice would not be served. DNA can solve and prevent crime -- removing recidivist criminals from our streets. Arrestee and detainee testing will also mean that law enforcement can quickly focus on the right suspect, thereby saving investigatory resources for those crimes where DNA cannot play a role. And importantly, this law will also help to ensure against wrongful incarcerations of the truly innocent.

"Opponents of this law argue that arrested persons are presumed innocent and many may not be convicted. They argue that it is not "fair" to treat these individuals -- individuals who are suspected of breaking the law -- like criminals. But by using this same reasoning, we should not be collecting fingerprints either. Or mugshots. In fact, if we truly respect the rights and privacy of persons accused or suspected of crimes, we will not even solicit their names or drivers licenses. We should just politely ask if they have committed or intend to commit any other crimes we should know about, and then take them at their word. In Virginia, where the state has required DNA for these felony arrestees since 2003, there were already 400 matches of unsolved crimes to arrestee samples as of the end of 2007. And not once, since 2003 or since 1990 when the state's DNA program began, has there ever been an instance or even allegation of misuse of this database.

"DNA is, in the end, truth. And innocent, law abiding citizens are not afraid of the truth.

"We applaud Congress and the Federal Government in moving our country forward on this important public safety issue."

Joan Berry, Tennessee/Georgia

In memory of daughter Johnia Berry, who was murdered in 2004

Karen Foster, Alaska

In memory of daughter Bonnie Craig, who was raped and murdered in 1994

Jayann Sepich, New Mexico

In memory of daughter Katie Sepich, who was raped and murdered in 2003

SOURCE Jayann Sepich
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