Crime Commission to study expanding DNA collection

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- The Virginia Crime Commission says it will formally study the impact of enhanced DNA collection for additional crimes.

According to a release, the study will analyze data available from other states, like Wisconsin and New York that already have expanded collection policies for misdemeanor offenses.

“I applaud the Virginia Crime Commission's decision to formally examine how DNA databank enhancement will promote justice by convicting the guilty and exonerating the innocent,” said Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Tracci. “When conducting this study, I am confident the commission will consider potential civil liberties concerns by examining the adequacy of current DNA storage and retention safeguards.”

Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding has been pushing for expanding the number of crimes for which DNA can be collected.

The parents of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, John and Sue Graham, have also spoken in support of expanding the list of crimes.

The man convicted of killing Hannah, Jesse Matthew, had been convicted of trespass in 2010, years before he abducted and killed Hannah or Morgan Harrington.

If his DNA had been collected at that time, law enforcement officials might have been able to tie him to a sexual assault in Fairfax County that occurred in 2005.

That connection could have put him in prison before the time when Harrington disappeared from a Metallica concert in Charlottesville.

“I wish to thank John and Susan Graham for their personal advocacy for this Crime Commission study,” said Tracci. “It was a privilege to work with Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding, House of Delegates Speaker Howell, Minority Leader David Toscano, Delegate Steve Landes, Delegate Rob Bell, and others to garner support for this crucial bipartisan DNA study.”

Matthew was connected to the Harrington case by DNA, which connected to the then-unsolved 2005 case.

He has since been sentenced to several life sentences in prison.

Recent reports across the United States have also highlighted how DNA can free people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime.

“DNA databank enhancement has proven its utility in solving crimes and freeing the innocent in other states,” said Harding. “I am looking forward to the results of this important study and how enhanced use of DNA technology in the Commonwealth can spare future unnecessary victims of crime.”

Recently, a man named Keith Allen Harward was exonerated after DNA proved he did not commit a rape and murder back in 1982.

He had spent decades in prison for the crime, but he is now a free man, and Governor Terry McAuliffe recently signed a bill to give him some compensation from the state.

The study will be specifically looking at civil liberty safeguards to ensure against unauthorized collection, dissemination or utilization of DNA data and determine if such protections can be further enhanced.



 
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