SACRAMENTO — A record number of rape suspects were identified in one day last week when genetic crime evidence matched convicted felons’ DNA in a state database, Attorney General Bill Lockyer said Tuesday.
The five matches came up as crime lab managers entered 21,000 genetic profiles from people in jail for one of nine violent offenses, including rape and murder, Lockyer said.
Tuesday’s announcement means that a total of six DNA matches have been made this year in cases where police had no suspects.
One of the men identified by the DNA match is now wanted on suspicion of raping of a Southern California woman. He is in a Texas jail awaiting trial for similar crimes, Lockyer said.
DNA matches linked two other men to rapes in Southern California; a fourth man to a rape in the San Francisco Bay area; and a fifth to the rape and murder of a Sacramento-area woman about 20 years ago, Lockyer said.
Their previously collected DNA profiles were matched by computer to crime scenes where DNA had been found.
The attorney general said he wants the Legislature to approve a bill that would allow DNA collection from all felons.
Currently the law only allows authorities to collect DNA from people convicted of rape, murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, domestic violence, kidnapping, child molestation, mayhem and torture.
“We are only solving one out of three rapes based on DNA evidence that could be solved if we had all the felons, like in Virginia, submit samples,” Lockyer said.
Thirty-two states have tougher DNA collection laws than California: Seven states collect DNA from all felons and 25 states add burglars to California’s list of crimes. Another 15 states are considering legislation to include all felons in DNA collection, Lockyer said.
A backlog of prisoners’ DNA profiles is expected to be entered into the state’s database this summer, bringing the number of offenders to 200,000.
That could jump significantly if expanded to all felons. More than 150,000 felony convictions are handed down each year in California.
“There is no question that we are going to see many-fold increases in cold hits across the country. I think most states are dramatically increasing the size of their databases,” said Susan Gaertner, a Minnesota prosecutor who cochairs the DNA subcommittee of the National District Attorneys Association.
Yet the increase in DNA matches has some wondering about the future of DNA identifications. Sacramento attorney Johnny Griffin III says he suspects that many people in the state’s database should have never been included.
Griffin represents Paul Eugene Robinson, who was arrested in September on a John Doe warrant, which identifies Robinson only by his genetic code.
Robinson’s DNA profile should have never been entered into the state database because he didn’t fall into one of the state’s nine categories, Griffin said.
“My question is how many people are in that database when they shouldn’t be? The statute provides that if a sample is in the database ... by mistake, the results are not invalidated,” Griffin said.
In other words, suspected drunken drivers who submitted to urine tests could be in the database, he said.
Lockyer said concerns over privacy are forfeited when prisoners commit crimes. He compared the DNA profiles to a fingerprint, collected on all people convicted of crimes.
The state’s first DNA match was in April 1994 when James King was linked to the murder and rape of 76-year-old Contra Costa County woman. King is serving a life sentence without parole for that conviction.
Last year, the state matched 17 suspects to cases. In 1999 there were four matches.