Monday, September 30, 2002
Cooley, Lockyer Join in Call for ‘DNA Bill of Rights’
By LORELEI LAIRD, Staff Writer
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer Friday called for legislation requiring that sexual assault victims be kept informed about the processing and use of DNA evidence in their cases.
Addressing a forum sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sexual Assault Coordinating Council—-a group of law enforcement professionals—-at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, the two officials urged lawmakers to create a “DNA Bill of Rights” in California.
If enacted, the bill would guarantee victims of sexual crimes the right to have their rape kits properly stored until the statute of limitations expires and the right to be notified when the DNA is analyzed, when it’s added to the state database, when law enforcement finds a match and when it’s destroyed improperly.
“I would actively endorse and aggressively work to see that those [rights] are provided,” Lockyer, who is a candidate for reelection, said.
The two also called for improved government support of DNA analysis. Standing in front of charts comparing Los Angeles DNA analysis resources to those of other municipalities, Cooley said the city’s DNA testing capabilities are “at some point between awful and miserable.”
The police department has only two criminalists who analyze DNA evidence for every 100 people in the city, compared to 10 per 100 in San Diego and New York and seven in Orange County, the district attorney said, calling the city and county backlogs “immense.”
Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said Cooley feels the police department is not proposing to add enough criminalists to its staff for the upcoming regional crime lab at California State University, Los Angeles. She estimated the current number of LAPD criminalists at five; the police propose to add about 25, but Cooley would prefer “at minimum 40,” she said.
Lockyer, emphasizing that DNA evidence exonerates the innocent as well as helps to convict the guilty, also called for a faster turnaround on processing of genetic evidence—12 days for high-priority cases and 45 for others, rather than the average of 74 days it currently takes in California.
LAC-SAC Co-Chair Patti Giggins emphasized that DNA evidence not only helps determine guilt, but helps prevent repeat rapes and allows victims to go on with their lives.
“We know what the evidence does once it’s collected,” she said. “But we have to remember that that case and that evidence is part of the survivor’s life.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company