Thursday, August 17, 2011
Cooley Urges State Supreme Court Review of Proposition 69 Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
District Attorney Steve Cooley has urged Attorney General Kamala Harris to seek review of a First District Court of Appeal ruling that collecting DNA samples from arrestees is unconstitutional.
In a letter to Harris on Monday, Cooley criticized the Aug. 4 decision in People v. Buza as “result-oriented.” He said the ruling “cries out for an objective and well reasoned analysis by the High Court” and “does a disservice to the victims and survivors of crimes including rape and murder.”
He insisted the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act, approved by California voters in 2004 as Proposition 69, “is just and contains adequate safeguards to prevent abuse of an individual’s rights.”
The act requires that all felony arrestees provide DNA samples, and if the arrestee was not charged with a criminal offense or acquitted, he or she could have the sample expunged from the database.
“Like long-accepted conventional fingerprint evidence, use of DNA is a valuable law enforcement tool,” Cooley said, noting such evidence has allowed a number of cold cases statewide have been reinvestigated, resulting in numerous filings in Los Angeles County.
He cited the cases against “Grim Sleeper” suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr.; former LAPD officer Stephanie Lazarus, accused of the 1986 murder of her former boyfriend’s new wife; and Dennis Vasquez, who was charged with the rape and murder of an 80-year-old woman in 1975.
Cooley also chafed at the suggestion by Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline, who wrote the decision, that police could use the law to arrest people falsely to illegally obtain evidence. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Cooley contended. “To suggest that it is used as a ploy to violate a person’s constitutional rights is not only wrong, it is insulting to the entire criminal justice system,” he said.
The Buza ruling reflects a split in court opinions regarding similar DNA collection laws. Most recently, in U.S. v. Mitchell, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the federal statute permitting collection of DNA from persons arrested under federal authority.
In U.S. v. Pool, the Ninth Circuit upheld the federal law, and in Brown v. Haskell, the U.S. District Court of Northern California denied a motion for injunction against the state’s arrestee DNA program.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company