Critics Say Massachusetts Needs Better DNA Preservation Laws

According to critics, the state of Massachusetts is one of 25 US States with no laws dealing with the preservation of key DNA evidence. It is also one of seven states that do not automatically allow people convicted of crimes the right to submit their DNA to exonerate themselves from crimes they did not commit.

In Massachusetts, the rules that preside over DNA preservation fall under the Code of Massachusetts Regulations. According to Massachusetts State Police, there are some 16,000 DNA samples at a Sudbury facility. state police spokesperson David Procopio says law enforcement authorities never get rid of DNA samples obtained from victims and crime scenes unless they are told to do so by the district attorney in charge of the case.

Last week, Keith Amato, a Cape Cod man who has been trying to retrieve the DNA sample he gave to police for a murder investigation, won the right to get his sample back. The investigation dealt with the 2002 stabbing death of writer Christa Worthington.

In 2006, Christopher McCowen was convicted of her murder. In June of this year, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit accusing state law enforcement officers of failing to keep their promise that they would destroy Amato’s DNA evidence if he was ruled out as a murder suspect.

According to ACLU Legal Director John Reinstein, the state lacks an “authority for maintaining these rule-out samples.” Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, however, said he authorized that the sample, in addition to all other DNA samples obtained in the case, be returned or destroyed.

Some people have questioned whether the collection of so many DNA samples for the Worthington murder investigation was intrusive.

Critics: State fails DNA test,, September 1, 2008
Cape Cod man gets DNA sample back,, August 28, 2008
ACLU sues over DNA sample,, June 20, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Frontline: The Case for Innocence, PBS
Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers, US Department of Justice
If you have been convicted of a crime in Massachusetts, there may be key evidence that could exonerate you. Your best chances of fighting the charges or overturning a conviction is to hire an experienced Boston criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Altman & Altman LLP today.

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