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HALL: Let the bloodletting begin

Stan Hall 

Stan Hall 

It was bound to happen sooner or later. With all of the interest that we apparently have in vampires these days, no one should be surprised that the topic of blood has now made it to the courts. And, no, I am not talking about bloodsucking judges, as some defendants of alimony cases might describe them.

I am talking about the current interest that many people have with other people's blood and how it can be used to fight and solve crime. This blood is not found on the fangs of a nocturnal creature, but if certain laws are passed, it would be found in the files of every person who is arrested for a felony status crime.

Adding mandatory DNA samples to be taken, in addition to the already required latent fingerprint process of a person charged with a crime, is being hotly debated in this year's legislative sessions across the country. Needless to say, not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. I, however, have not only jumped on the bandwagon but would be willing to pull it up a hill, fully loaded with DNA samples, if it meant we would have a better chance of holding people accountable for their criminal actions.

But you would think that we were asking for a bright orange tattoo to be emblazoned on their forehead that says "I'm a criminal." Keep in mind that none of this would take effect if you were not arrested for a felony. That's a fairly easy threshold to avoid. Just don't commit a felony and you can keep every drop of that precious blood until you, too, meet that vampire of your dreams.

But, everybody and their brother are already coming out of the woodwork claiming that these requirements constitute an invasion of their privacy, as well as a violation of search and seizure issues in our constitution. These are the same people who scream the loudest when laws are passed that allow closer scrutiny of those who might be involved in activities that are detrimental to our country and our citizens. Some are simply not willing to consider methods that are being put in place for the safety and protection of the masses if it even closely resembles what they interpret as giving up rights that deal with their "privacy."

If I was a terrorist, or someone who was assisting in such an act, I would be on their side. Or in the case of this new law, if I was someone who was a rapist or a murderer, I would be on their side as well. But I am not. And neither are 99.9 percent of us. It is that same 99.9 percent who will never be asked to submit to a DNA sample being taken. But those are not the folks who cry foul at every turn when justice is sought.

Requiring DNA samples is already in place in most states once you are convicted of a felony status crime. Those samples are then entered into a DNA database that is used for comparative samples, just as fingerprints are captured, to use for identification in cases where the identity of a perpetrator is unknown or as a comparative sample in cases where DNA samples have been recovered on crime scenes. If that DNA found is not yours, it will not come back identifying you. DNA is even more precise than the methods used in fingerprint technology.

And keep in mind that no two people have the same fingerprint. Therefore, we can assume that a DNA match is hard to argue. Admittedly, there have been cases where people who were arrested were not guilty of the crime in which they were accused. Even for those who should fall into this category, this requirement should be of no threat to them. In fact, the retrieval of DNA would potentially exonerate them rather than convict them falsely. A DNA match is basically indefensible. What good felon, or someone who might represent them, would not welcome such news to the courtroom?

DNA detractors typically are more concerned with using this science to convict someone rather than acquit someone. But that is far from the case. Story after story is now coming out where someone who had been convicted for a crime has been released based on DNA evidence that proved his or her innocence. People who have been in jail for 20 years or more are now free, based on this technology that was unavailable at the time of their conviction. But, we won't hear much of that in the current arguments.

I guess that if I had committed a crime, and was worried that my DNA sample was floating around out there somewhere, I might be on the other side. And I guess that if I thought that there was a chance I might commit a crime in the future, I would rather not have laws in place that made my apprehension a bit easier. But I have not committed a felony and have no immediate plans to do so. Therefore, I have little pity for those who have or plan to.

The simplistic argument for DNA samples is the one that we hear most often. If you never do anything wrong, why would you care? We give our fingerprints every day for one reason or another and I have heard of no great conspiracies where people are being convicted of crimes based on false identifications after these prints were taken. I have no reason to believe that the DNA sample would result any differently. If you leave a little sample behind in a place that you should not have been, doing something that you should not have done, it may come back to haunt you one day. Sometimes simplicity does just make good sense.

These procedures of identifying people who commit crimes may not be good material for a "Twilight" sequel, but it is very scary for a group of people who hope that this law never comes to pass. Unlike some movies that have sad endings, this evidence may turn a tragedy into a celebration when they know that justice will finally be served.

I know that this argument or any argument in favor of such innovative techniques will fall on deaf ears of those who are determined to do all that they can to retard any actions that will hold people responsible for their criminal actions. I would only say this to them: I would bet that the victims of these crimes would gladly have given a few drops of their blood rather than the large pool of it that so many of them were left lying in. Justice does not have to be both blind and stupid.

Stan Hall is director of Gwinnett County's victim's witness program.