Missouri is considering joining the ranks of states that have adopted a law requiring DNA collection for felony arrests, according to the Richmond News.
Some 25 states have already passed the measure, dubbed “Katie’s Law,” based on a 2003 case in which Katie Sepich was abducted, brutally raped, and killed outside of her New Mexico home. When family and police realized that she had her attacker’s DNA under her fingernails, there was hope that her killer would be brought to justice.
Unfortunately, his DNA wasn’t in any national database, so the family could only wait, and advocate for their daughter.
Three years later, her killer’s DNA was finally entered into a database, and he was identified as a result of the passage of a law making DNA collection mandatory.
Jayann Sepich, Katie’s mother, spoke on behalf of the new bill at the Missouri Senate Progress and Development Committee hearing on Tuesday.
“There is nothing more painful than losing a child,” Sepich said, as quoted by the Richmond News. “[Passing this bill] would result in more samples and, frankly, more database hits. We’d be catching more criminals.”
Under Missouri’s current law, “every individual who is 17 years old or older and is arrested for burglary, sex-related felonies, and certain felonies committed against a person must provide a biological sample for DNA profiling analysis.”
However, the new proposed bill sponsored by Senator Scott Sifton (D-Affton) “requires every individual who is 17 years old or older who is arrested for any felony offense to provide a biological sample for DNA profiling,” according to the Senate Bill’s website.
Katie’s Law has had prominent supporters, namely former President Barack Obama.
In a 2010 interview on America’s Most Wanted, host John Walsh asked Obama what his thoughts were on collecting DNA from individuals arrested, but not necessarily convicted, of violent crimes.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Obama replied, quoted by Politico. “This is where the national registry becomes so important, because what you have is individual states — they may have a database, but if they’re not sharing it with the state next door, you’ve got a guy from Illinois driving over into Indiana, and they’re not talking to each other.”
Those who oppose Katie’s Law argue that this type of DNA collection is an infringement on privacy and the Fourth Amendment.
Peter Brill of Brill Legal Group, PC, in New York argues that Katie’s Law creates a “slippery slope” and that it’s wrong to collect DNA from thousands of people who haven’t had a trial, according to HG.org
New York State has yet to discuss Katie’s Law, but it currently requires DNA collection from all individuals convicted of violent felonies.
Jayann Sepich adamantly disagrees with opposers, saying the law actually prevents crimes and help exonerate the innocent.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Sepich’s family’s position in a 2013 case, Maryland v. King, and upheld law enforcement’s right to collect DNA through a cheek swab upon arrest.
Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer.