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Miss Legislature Prepared to Extended DNA Testing

By Paul Boger | Published 12 Feb 2014 08:30am | comments
The Mississippi senate is set to debate a bill that would allow law enforcement to take DNA samples of those arrested for violent offenses. MPB's Paul Boger reports state officials believe the collection of DNA would help bring an end to unsolved crimes while at the same time exonerate those wrongfully convicted.
 
A bill that would allow law enforcement officials to collect the DNA of those arrested for violent crimes was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives Monday, and is expected to picked up by the Senate as early as this week.
 
Republican Representative Mark Formby of Pearl River County introduced the bill into the House.
 
"We take photos, we take fingerprints, the best thing we can do for the constituents we serve is to protect them from any type of mayhem and evil." said Formby. "This is a bill that takes us in another step in that direction in my opinion."
 
Under current state law, DNA is collected only after a person is convicted of a crime. The proposal would instead extend testing to those arrested for a violent offense like murder or rape.
 
Jennifer Reilly-Collins is with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says collecting a suspects DNA before conviction violates Due Process laws.
 
"Collecting and storing DNA from arrestees basically turns the fundamental tenets of our justice system -- innocent until proven guilty -- on it's head." said Collins. "Taking DNA violates those fundamental tenets of our justice system."
 
However, Governor Phil Bryant says DNA testing will be beneficial to the state, not just to put violent offenders behind bars, but to also free those wrongfully convicted.
 
"The other important part about this is to be able to exonerate those innocent individuals that are charged with a crime." said Bryant "Just as importantly is to make sure that someone that is charged or may be charged with a violent act he or she has not committed DNA helps exonerates those individuals." said Bryant/.
 
There are 27 other states that have similar DNA testing laws that were deemed constitutional by the U-S Supreme Court last year. 
 

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