Attorney General Bill Lockyer Praises Court Decision Upholding California's DNA Collection Law

Court Decision Allows State to Collect DNA from Death Row Inmates

Thursday, May 16, 2002
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today praised a unanimous appellate court decision which will allow the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to collect DNA samples from death row inmates.

"Today's ruling brings an end to three years of legal uncertainty about California's DNA collection law," Lockyer said. "We will finally have the opportunity to collect DNA samples from the state's most dangerous criminals, the 600 men and women on death row, and put it to use in order to solve crimes."

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. Today's Third District Court of Appeal ruling overturns the lower court decision and finds that California's DNA collection law is constitutional. The appellate court's ruling will become final in 30 days.

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 101 "cold hits" since it was established in 1994, with 93 of these hits having occurred since January 1999.

The court's ruling in Alfaro v. Terhune can be found at: www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/courtsofappeal/3rdDistrict/

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