Monday, May 14, 2007

Erika's New and Hot, Week 7 "Governor Proposes DNA Tests for Most Crimes in New York"

This article talks about how the governor of New York wants all convicted criminals, whether of felonies or of misdemeanors, to have their DNA tested. N.Y. has been testing DNA since 2000, but while it started out as just for sex offenders and other serious felons, it has gradually been expanded. On the one hand, many people are nervous about such an invasion of privacy- especially for people convicted only of misdemeanors, crimes that include petty theft, vandalism, public intoxication, and any other offense for which the conviction is less than twelve months (if longer, it's called a felony). For instance, the ACLU is worried about what else the DNA might be used for, besides convicting and exonerating criminals. DNA has much personal information that could be misused, and such a sweeping increase in the number of tests necessarily generates unease. Also, taking samples of all current offenders in the N.Y. prison system, of those on parole, probation, and the registered sex offenders, requires a total of 50,000 tests, which would cost the state $1.75 million. It is uncertain how much future costs would incur.

However, such a widespread use of DNA tests could have great benefits. If a murderer had once been convicted of petty theft, he or she could be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If an individual were innocent, he or she could be exonerated, even decades later (as has happened in about 200 cases across the country). The bill would make it easier for defendants to ask for their DNA to be tested against the evidence collected in their cases. It has the potential to bring criminals to justice with more certainty, and allow innocence to be proven more definitively.

I thought it was interesting that DNA, which has been used to prove which species are related to which, is now employed to determine the innocence or guilt of humans. I do find it somewhat unsettling that the government would have access to such personal information- such information that so completely identifies each individual. However, if it can help justice be served...there are all those cases of people being wrongly convicted...what do you guys think?

1 comment:

chickenpox said...

This is kind of the same idea as creating a fingerprint database for every American citizen or putting permanent sensors on convicted sex offenders. I wonder what the threshold should be between maintaining individual privacy and increasing communal security.