Wednesday, January 28, 2004
C.A. Upholds Compulsory Taking of DNA Samples From Prisoners
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
A state prisoner who has been convicted of a serious crime may be compelled to give a DNA sample for inclusion in a criminal justice database, even if there is no suspicion the person committed another crime, the Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
“The individuals who are required [by Penal Code Sec. 295] to give samples have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, sexual offenses, assaults, and kidnapping...,” Justice Eugene Premo explained. “One result of their crimes is that society has a vastly increased interest in their identities.”
The ruling affirms the conviction of Michael Adams, sentenced in Monterey Superior Court to life imprisonment without parole. Adams was charged in 2001 with the 20-year-old murder of a Monterey woman after a state criminalist ran the DNA profile taken from a vaginal swab against the database and made a “cold hit” to Adams’ DNA profile.
It was the 24th such hit since the databank was set up in 1994, Attorney General Bill Lockyer noted at the time, and the first linked to a crime that old.
Adams had been questioned after his name and phone number were found on Sylvia Edgren’s desk calendar. He told police that he never met Edgren, the former wife of Monterey Councilman Don Edgren, but had spoken to her several times in response to an ad concerning her desire for a male roommate.
He had been interested, he explained, but by the time Edgren called back, he said, he had found another place to live.
Re-interviewed after the DNA hit, he said that he met with Edgren for about two hours, but was unable to afford what she was asking in rent. He denied any physical contact and could not understand how his DNA could have been found.
At trial, he claimed that he and Edgren had a secret relationship, which they concealed because the local community would have disapproved of an interracial romance. He lied to the police prior to his arrest, he said, because he did not want to admit having had sex with the victim after having denied it 20 years earlier.
Prosecutors questioned the story, noting that there was no other evidence of a relationship, and that the dates when the defendant claimed to have been with Edgren did not match the dates that his name appeared on her calendar. Edgren, they added, would not likely have referred to Adams by both first and last name six times on her calendar if their relationship was an intimate one.
Adams’ counsel argued on appeal that Sec. 295 violates the Fourth Amendment because it permits seizure of blood without individualized suspicion or “special needs.” The argument was based on U.S. Supreme Court cases holding that police could not institute a highway checkpoint for random drug searches of automobiles and that a state hospital could not compel pregnant patients to submit to drug testing under conditions in which positive results were turned over to law enforcement.
Premo, however, said those cases do not control because they did not involve prisoners convicted of serious crimes.
“Deterrence and prevention of future criminality and accurate prosecution of past crimes are purposes served by DNA testing and courts have upheld DNA acts for the law enforcement purpose of solving crimes,” the justice noted. The legislation authorizing the taking of the samples, he noted, takes convicts’ privacy interests into account by barring public access to the database and requiring the state to take measures to protect against public disclosure of the contents.
The constitutionality of forced collection of DNA samples is presently pending before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which earlier this month ordered en banc review of a three-judge panel’s ruling that the federal counterpart to California’s law was invalid as applied to a defendant who had completed his prison term and was on supervised release when his probation officer ordered him to give a sample.
The case decided yesterday is People v. Adams, 04 S.O.S. 392.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company