Pella Chronicle

Community News Network

February 12, 2013

Why collecting DNA from people who are arrested won't solve more crimes

In April 2009, police easily arrested Alonzo J. King, Jr. in Wicomico County, Md. After King pointed a shotgun at a group of people, one of them told the police who did it, and King readily admitted his guilt. He was originally charged with felony assault and ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.

This seemingly insignificant criminal case is now before the Supreme Court, with arguments later this month. That's because of what the authorities did next. When King was arrested, police took a cotton swab of skin cells from inside his cheek for DNA testing. They did not need his DNA to link him to the shotgun incident. Instead, the police entered King's DNA profile into both the Maryland DNA database and the FBI's national database, CODIS. King's profile, like all those in the database, was then automatically compared every week to evidence from all unsolved crimes. And, in fact, King's DNA matched DNA from an unsolved sexual assault case, for which he was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

If Maryland had required King to submit his DNA once he was convicted, then there would be no Supreme Court challenge. So far courts have all upheld DNA collection from felons, reasoning that convicts forfeit some of the rights of ordinary citizens. Maryland v. King is about something new: More than one-half of the 50 states (including Maryland) and the federal government authorize compulsory collection of DNA from people who have been arrested. But the Supreme Court has never held that if police have probable cause to arrest, they can also search a suspect for evidence of past or future crimes. Maryland's justification for this unprecedented expansion of police power? Bigger is better. Add arrestee profiles to the database, and more crimes will be solved.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • 20140424-AMX-COFFEE24.jpg Coffee growers' prayers for rain met with threat of deluge

    Brazil's drought made arabica coffee this year's best-performing commodity. Now, farmers are facing a downpour that is once more threatening crops.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Celebrity quack moms are a terrible influence on everyday parents

    On April 15, the actress Alicia Silverstone released a book called "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning." It's chock-full of attachment parenting lessons and dangerous misinformation.

    April 24, 2014

  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 23, 2014

  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo