(SACRAMENTO) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced that the California Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal in the Alfaro v. Terhune case will allow the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to begin collecting DNA samples from death row inmates.
"California's death row is home to more than 600 of the state's most violent and dangerous criminals," Lockyer said. "A DNA sample is an important part of the debt these inmates must pay to victims and their families and to society. It is evidence that is long overdue, and we will use it as quickly as possible to solve past crimes, exonerate the innocent and help other victims achieve closure."
In 1999, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that the CDC had not promulgated sufficient administrative regulations, and, therefore, was prohibited from collecting DNA samples from eight women plaintiffs on death row. The Attorney General and the CDC appealed, but the CDC decided not to collect DNA samples from all death row inmates, male and female, pending the outcome of the appeal. In May of this year, the Third District Court of Appeal overturned the lower court decision and found that California's DNA collection law was constitutional. The appellate court's ruling did not become final because the defendants asked the California Supreme Court to review the case. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has upheld the appellate court ruling and the CDC can now begin collecting DNA samples from death row inmates.
Existing California law requires that blood and saliva samples be taken from individuals convicted of any of 13 specified felony sex and violent crimes, including capital murder. The California Department of Corrections is responsible for obtaining DNA samples from inmates in their institutions. The samples yield DNA profiles, which are stored in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Convicted Felons data bank. DNA profiles extracted from crime scene evidence are compared to the profiles in the data bank, and a match in an unsolved case is considered a "cold hit." More than 200,000 DNA profiles from convicted felons have been developed.
The DOJ DNA Convicted Felons data bank has obtained 122 "cold hits" since it was established in 1994, with 114 of these hits having occurred since January 1999.