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Colorado Successfully Pressures FBI To Release DNA Info; Racial Bias Infects DNA Databases

State law enforcement agencies have struck a tentative deal with FBI officials that allows agencies to share previously privileged information.

The deal resulted from the brutal rape and beating of a Colorado woman who literally lost an eye from the attack.

DNA from the rapist was compared to more than 50,000 profiles in the Colorado database but didn?t yield a match. Authorities then ran it through the FBI?s National DNA Index System of over 3.5 million subjects. Still no match was found.

However, one Oregon offender profile was similar enough to suggest that the rapist might be related to a Colorado resident. If the suspect could be tested and the DNA matched the case would be solved.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey contacted the FBI to retrieve the identity of the Oregon suspect. To his surprise the FBI refused to release the name. At the time of Morrissey?s request FBI policy prohibited the release of one state?s data to another state.

So Morrissey did what any self-respecting public official would do. He threatened the FBI with negative media coverage.

?Your policy is not likely to sit well with [the victim] when she understands your roadblocks to our investigation of her case,? Morrissey told FBI officials. ?I cannot predict whether she will choose to share this information with other public officials and the media.?

The FBI relented. Two days later FBI Director Robert S. Mueller contacted Morrissey. Two weeks later the FBI had a new policy. While the FBI still does not release information between states it does not interfere if states decide to share information.

At a glance the new agreement appears to be a win-win situation.
Look again!

While identical DNA matches are virtually unquestionable close matches are not nearly as accurate. In 40 percent of close matches suspects are not related at all.

Henry T. Greely, a professor of law and genetics at Stanford University, says that, among other privacy concerns, DNA profiling will undoubtedly be racially biased.

Black Americans make up 13 percent of the nation?s population but constitute 40 percent of the national DNA database. This would mean that black Americans, who already make up a vastly disproportionate cross section of the prison population, would now be disproportionately investigated as well.

Greely says that the only fair and practical solution would be the implementation of a universal DNA database. He admits that creating such a database would encounter legal, practical and political resistance but maintains that the alternative is preferable to the racially biased system now being implemented.

To date, Denver has shared nearly-matching DNA evidence with Oregon and Arizona. Another unsolved case has Florida and Michigan poised to enter the swap meet. Morrissey is quite pleased with his success.

What is disconcerting is that Morrissey makes no mention whether the original case that started this invasion of privacy has helped the woman who was initially attacked.
Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

Source: ABA Journal

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