Prosecutors want Supreme Court to review Md. DNA ruling

Prince George\'s County State\'s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, along with other prosecutors and police chiefs, wants the Supreme Court to review the ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland\'s highest court. (WTOP/Nathan Hager)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – Support among Maryland prosecutors is growing for the Supreme Court to review a ruling by Maryland’s highest court, one that found it unconstitutional for police to collect cheek swabs of people arrested for violent crimes and burglaries.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks wants Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler to appeal the Court of Appeals ruling to the nation’s highest court because she says DNA collection is the key to solving cold cases.

“This method of collecting DNA has been critical,” Alsobrooks says.

“In fact, we had a conviction this past Friday. There was a wonderful conviction in a cold case, it was a 10-year-old case.”

Alsobrooks says arrestee DNA has been used in nine cases since the law was enacted three years ago. Five resulted in arrests with one conviction. She says the county is looking into whether other cases may be affected.

Other who share Alsobrooks view of DNA testing include Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw, St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard D, Fritz, St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron and Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Schellenberger.

A Southern Maryland agency that provides help to rape victims also is calling on Gansler to take action.

“As the Executive Director of Walden, the agency designated locally to provide Rape Crisis Services, I urge Attorney General Doug Gansler to appeal the court’s decision. The victims in these cases are women who courageously undergo invasive medical exams to collect evidence after being sexually brutalized. The least we can do is to test defendants arrested for violent crimes, to collect DNA which has been proven to be effective in solving many of these horrendous crimes of rape as well as exonerating innocent defendants,” says Kathleen O’Brien, executive director of Walden Sierra, on BayNet.com.

Maryland’s highest court last week ruled that taking what are known as “buccal swabs” from those arrested violates their privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

The 5-2 Court of Appeals ruling found Maryland violated Alonzo Jay King Jr.’s constitutional rights. Before his 2009 assault case went to trial, his DNA was entered into a statewide database that linked him to the rape of a 53-year-old woman in Salisbury.

King was convicted of both the 2003 rape and of the 2009 assault, but the high court overturned his life sentence for the rape. His assault conviction stands.

In issuing its ruling on the Maryland DNA Collection Act, the court found King’s DNA was obtained illegally.

“The first buccal swab provided the sole probable cause for King’s first-degree rape grand jury indictment. There was no other evidence linking King to the 2003 unsolved rape,” the court ruled.

For the Supreme Court to review the Maryland case, Gansler, the state’s top prosecutor, would need to petition the justices for a writ of certiorari.

A spokesman for Gansler tells The Washington Post Gansler’s office is still studying the court opinion, and attorneys are strongly considering an appeal.

WTOP’s Nathan Hager contributed to this report. Follow Nathan and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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