CSAO: DNA Data Bank Oversight Panel - 12/09/08

DNA Data Bank Oversight Panel
Minutes of Meeting of December 9, 2008

Present at the meeting were Dawn Hellier, Department of Public Safety (D.P.S.) Commissioner’s Office; Michael Bourke, D.P.S.-Forensic Lab; Carll Ladd, D.P.S.-Forensic Lab; Fred Levesque, Department of Correction (D.O.C.); Wanda White-Lewis, D.O.C.; George Camp, D.O.C.; Lynn Wittinbrink, Attorney General’s Office; Sam Izzarelli, D.P.S.-Connecticut State Police; Michael Aiello, Judicial Court Support Services Division; Michael Gailor, Office of the Chief State's Attorney; and Judith Rossi, Office of the Chief State's Attorney.

Upon motion and second, the minutes of the meeting of September 9, 2008 were accepted.  There was no public comment and no old business.

IMPLEMENTATION OF PUBLIC ACT 03-242

Report of Court Support Services Division (C.S.S.D.):

C.S.S.D. has reviewed the DPS legislative proposal and supports the proposal to make it an offense to fail to provide, as well as refuse to provide, a DNA sample when obligated by law to do so. They also support making such an offense a class D felony.

CSSD has an adequate supply of kits. They will purchase kits together with DOC, but will store their own supply.

C.S.S.D. supports making the collection of samples from conditional discharge individuals the responsibility of C.S.S.D. instead of CPS which currently has that responsibility.

A discussion was had about whether warrants for refusal or failure to provide should be served by the State Police or the local police departments. It was agreed that they should go through the State Police.

There was agreement that a second DUI offense should be a felony for which DNA can be collected - this should be implemented through legislation.

A computer glitch led to 6000 letters advising people of the need to provide a sample not being sent. C.S.S.D. is trying to catch up by sending out additional letters with the regularly scheduled notices every other month. C.S.S.D. has taken about 2500 of these samples.

C.S.S.D. had about a 75% compliance rate of those summoned to give their required samples.  C.S.S.D. has matched about 3000 names with DOC records indicating those names had already given samples, so C.S.S.D. will not duplicate collection.

Report of Department of Public Safety Forensic Lab:

The Lab has processed 43,432 samples, of the 65,960 samples submitted to date. There have been 972 confirmed “hits” as of today, 400 of those in this fiscal year, with a projection of 1000 hits by the end of the year. Only three or four of the cases resulting from the hits have involved a challenge to the DNA, none successfully.

Staffing problems continue – five positions remain unfilled, with hiring frozen at the present time. This will have a very serious effect on the Lab’s ability to process requests, especially for DNA analysis in property crime case (burglaries), an area that has consistently had very good results in crime-solving efforts. If the positions are not filled, priority will have to be given to crimes of violence against persons.

Congress has recently authorized $150 million for DNA (nationally), but it has not yet appropriated the funds.

A problem arose recently when a DNA profile from several different crime scenes turned out to belong to a Lab employee – obviously the result of contamination. Current analysis is very sensitive and can pick up “touch” DNA from evidentiary items (glass bottle, knife handle, plastic baggies used to package drugs, etc.) and even DNA of an individual who coughs on such evidence. Profiles for all Lab personnel are on file, but the question arose whether crime scene workers, such as firefighters and police, should also have their DNA profiles on file. Knowledge of such profiles would be essential for elimination purposes, and for scientific integrity (rule out contamination). However, employers are prohibited by state statute from requiring employees to submit genetic samples, so a legislative change would be necessary.

The Lab supports a statutory change to allow them to provide information from the Database to police conducting a criminal investigation, for confirmatory or elimination purposes.

Department of Correction (D.O.C.) Report:

D.O.C. recently held refresher training on procedures for staff who collect DNA samples.

There was one recent refusal to submit a sample, but the inmate subsequently complied.

There was a discussion of a draft legislative proposal to permit staff to compel samples from inmates in custodial settings. The draft is modeled on a Massachusetts statute. If such a law were passed here in Connecticut, the D.O.C. Commissioner could designate specific staff members who would be permitted to use reasonable force to obtain samples.

Report of Connecticut State Police:

The State Police are only achieving a 25% compliance rate. There were 3550 refusals/failures to submit in October, and 3507 in November. The Meriden State’s Attorney’s Office refused to sign warrants on some of these cases because they do not construe failure to submit as a refusal.

There was a discussion about whether the most efficient approach is to require the offender to submit a sample to C.S.S.D. at or just before the time of sentencing. The statutory language “at a time and place designated by the court” should be changed to “at a time and place designated by C.S.S.D.”

Other Business:

There was a short discussion of the recent decision of the European High Court holding a portion of the British DNA Databank to be a violation of the right of privacy. The British databank contains some 860,000 profiles of individuals who do not have criminal records.

Executive Session – 10:57 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.

After coming out of Executive Session, the Panel took the following action upon motion and second:

A12-09-08 – Purge

B12-09-08 – Hold until re-submit, then purge

C12-09-08 – Purge

D12-09-08 – Hold with submission by D.O.C. of amended paperwork.

The meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m. The next meeting of the Panel is scheduled for March 10, 2009.



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