Seattle police detectives’ elaborate trick to get a murder suspect’s DNA was upheld yesterday by the state Supreme Court. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said the 6-3 ruling could give police more leeway and raise privacy concerns. “Although the ruse used by detectives in this case violated certain statutes, it was not so outrageous or shocking as to warrant dismissing the case,” said Justice Charles Johnson.
The case involved a man who licked a return envelope because he thought he was taking part in a class-action lawsuit over parking tickets. He’d fallen for a police trick — a letter from a fake law firm — aimed at getting a sample of his DNA. In dissent, Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that DNA is not just a matter of identity but “contains the most intimate details about a person.” She called the court’s ruling “breathtaking in its sweep.” Attorney Doug Klunder, a Seattle privacy expert who submitted arguments for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling was “very scary.” He added: “It certainly opens the door for police collecting DNA from individuals in any way they want — even without suspicion of wrongdoing. I shouldn’t have to worry about tossing a Kleenex in a garbage can.”