- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
By C. BENJAMIN FORD
A Maryland advocacy group for victims of sexual assault has filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to support the state’s efforts to continue collecting DNA samples from those arrested for violent crimes.
The state’s highest court had overturned the conviction of Alonzo Jay King Jr., whose DNA was collected and matched to a 2003 rape case after his arrest in 2009 on an unrelated assault charge. Last year, the state Court of Appeals ruled, in a 5-2 decision, that the collection of the DNA sample amounted to a warrantless search of King and violated his constitutional rights.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office filed the appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeals’ ruling that had called the collection of the DNA samples a violation of a suspect’s 4th Amendment rights.
“If the Court of Appeals’ decision is allowed to stand, this known rapist will go free and the survivor will never see justice,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Advocacy groups from 25 other states joined the Maryland group in support of the brief, written for the group by attorneys with the law firm Tydings & Rosenberg.
In November, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and arguments are scheduled for late February.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has likened the collection of DNA from arrest suspects to taking their fingerprints to compare crime scene evidence.
“The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault is a leading voice for victims’ rights, and we appreciate their support of this important crime-fighting tool that has helped law enforcement identify and bring to justice numerous criminals in our state,” said Alan Brody, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office.
In the brief, attorneys for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault argued that the 2003 rape of a Wicomico County woman would not have been solved without the collection of King’s DNA, which was gathered after his arrest and matched DNA evidence he had left during the rape.
The state has an interest in solving crimes, particularly cold cases that might otherwise go unsolved, according to the brief from the group.
The victim in the 2003 rape was one of 1,358 women who reported they were raped that year, but in reality, only an estimated 27 percent of victims report to police when they are raped, according to the brief filed by the group.
“Arrestee DNA collection demonstrably solves sexual assault cases and can prevent future such crimes,” the brief said.