ALBANY, N.Y., Jan 4 (Reuters) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo on
Wednesday proposed making New York the first state in the
country to expand its criminal DNA database to include anyone
convicted of a crime.
New York currently collects DNA from those convicted of
felonies or certain misdemeanors, including petty larceny and
violent crimes, but not low-level misdemeanors.
In his annual State of the State Address, Cuomo said he
would soon seek to expand the database to cover all crimes, a
move he said would prevent future crimes and help exonerate
"We are missing an important opportunity to prevent
needless suffering of crime victims," Cuomo said. "We are also
failing to use the most powerful tool we have to exonerate the
The governor said the state's database has provided leads
in over 2,700 convictions and led to 27 exonerations, but only
allows the state to collect DNA from about half of all
defendants convicted of crimes.
District attorneys on Wednesday applauded Cuomo's
"Collecting DNA from all convicted criminal defendants ...
will go far in helping our state's law enforcement prevent
future crimes and resolve pending cases," Westchester County
District Attorney Janet DiFiore, the president of the state
District Attorneys Association, said through a spokesman.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who has been a
vocal supporter of expanding the DNA database, said in a
statement that although the database has helped solve thousands
of crimes and prevent "countless more," current law allows his
office to collect DNA from only half of all convicted
"It's as if doctors were only permitted to use a
life-saving medicine in half of their cases," Vance said.
'QUALITY ASSURANCE PROTOCOLS'
Many civil rights groups have opposed the expansion of DNA
databases because of what they say is the fallibility of DNA
In 2010, former Gov. David Paterson introduced an "all
crimes" bill, and was met with staunch opposition from a number
of groups. According to the New York Times, that bill died
after lawmakers disagreed over whether to give defense
attorneys equal access to the database as prosecutors.
The collection and analysis of DNA evidence "is susceptible
to human fallibility -- and venality -- and this scientific
fact has not been given sufficient consideration in the debate
over the size and scope of the state's DNA databank," Robert
Perry, the legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a 2010 memo opposing Paterson's
Donna Lieberman, the director of the NYCLU, echoed Perry's
sentiment following Cuomo's speech on Wednesday, saying
"rigorous quality assurance protocols" are needed "to ensure
the integrity of the state's DNA databank."
Cuomo did not say when his proposal would be formally
introduced. The legislative session began Wednesday and runs
through late June. A spokesman did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
(Reporting by Dan Wiessner)
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