L.A. “Grim Sleeper” Arrest Tests Familial DNA Search Practices


The arrest of the “Grim Sleeper” – a serial killer who terrorized South Los Angeles for two decades – has put one of the hottest controversies in law enforcement to its first major test, says the New York Times. Only Colorado and California have a codified policy permitting a so-called familial search, the use of DNA samples taken from convicted criminals to track down relatives who may themselves have committed a crime.

It is a practice that district attorneys and the police say is an essential tool in catching otherwise elusive criminals, but that privacy experts criticize as a threat to civil liberties. The Los Angeles Police Department used it this week to arrest a man who they say murdered at least 10 residents here over 25 years. It is the first time an active familial search has been used to solve a U.S. homicide case. Lonnie Franklin Jr., 57, was charged yesterday ay with 10 counts of murder and one of attempted murder after the state DNA lab discovered a DNA link between evidence from the old crime scenes and that of his son, Christopher, who was recently convicted of a felony weapons charge.

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