0

LETTERS: The presumption of innocence fails under proposed Berry Act

I cannot imagine the torment that Joan and Mike Berry have endured in the wake of the murder of their daughter. I know that the proponents of the Johnia Berry Act have nothing but the finest intentions. But this type of legislation should give one pause.

I have no problem with collecting the DNA of the convicted. My issue here is collecting DNA from people who are arrested. The American justice system is built on "innocent until proven guilty," as well as freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

DNA testing is not the crime cure-all that "CSI" would have you believe. A group of scientists and lawyers recently published a letter in the December issue of SCIENCE magazine outlining their concerns. A Web search on "Dan Krane CODIS" will bring you to the pertinent articles. In a nutshell, what were thought to be "unique matches" may be far less reliable than previously thought. Therein lies the nightmare scenario. You are wrongly arrested. Your DNA is taken. You are exonerated. Your DNA stays in the database. Another crime is committed. A near-match for you is discovered at the crime scene. The process begins anew.

For the record, I've never been arrested. Unless the fashion police start hauling people in, I'm pretty safe. But, Ms. Berry's reasoning of "Why would you care ... if you didn't plan on doing anything wrong?" stands on the precipice of a nightmarish slippery slope. Where does that type of thinking end? Shall I provide urine samples to law enforcement "on demand?" Submit to midnight searches of my property? After all, they shouldn't bother me. I'm not doing anything illegal. Exaggerated? Certainly. But liberty rarely vanishes in a fell swoop. Typically, it's chipped away.

I grieve for the Berrys and all survivor families. But this is not the answer.

— Scott Piehler

Suwanee