Lawmakers seek to expand DNA testing

Friday, December 6, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- All felons in Missouri would have to provide genetic samples for a law enforcement database under legislation proposed Thursday.

The proposal would expand Missouri's DNA profiling system, which currently requires genetic samples from people convicted in felony murder cases, assaults and sex offenses.

Supporting lawmakers believe their proposal could lead to more convictions, because law officers could use the statewide database to link people already convicted of crimes to other offenses.

The proposed testing also could exonerate some convicted of crimes, law enforcement officials said.

DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the chemical that contains the genetic code unique to each individual.

Some lawmakers claim the current law is too restrictive and does not take advantage of new advances in technology that have helped other states get convictions in DNA cases.

Seventeen states already require all felons to provide DNA samples.

Through September, Missouri's current DNA database had 98 hits matching offenders already in prison with other crimes. In Virginia, which requires all felons to provide DNA samples, there were 1,000 similar hits through October of this year.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol has 23,000 felons listed in its DNA database. At least 59,000 felons currently under the supervision of the Department of Corrections could be added under the proposal.

"Today, more than ever, we have a heightened sense of security," said Rep. Cathy Jolly, D-Kansas City, who is co-sponsoring the legislation with Republican Rep. Danielle Moore of Fulton. "DNA technology is one of the most critical tools we can use to solve crimes."

Missouri's legislative session begins Jan. 8.

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