NEWS AND ISSUES


May 22, 2007

Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Governor
State of New York
Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Spitzer:

As we move toward the waning weeks of this yearfs Legislative Session, I want to bring to your attention some serious concerns I have about expanding the DNA datababse. While we have seen dramatic convictions and exonerations from DNA technology, it is not without its flaws.

DNA technology is both a blessing and a curse. If we expand the DNA database too quickly, New York will encounter serious problems in maintaining and utilizing the database effectively. This could lead to dire results.

DNA experts, technicians, crime labs and law enforcement agencies in New York State are already stretching their resources to the maximum. There is a tremendous backlog in DNA labs across New York State. In 2006, the New York State Commission on Investigation reported that grepresentatives of most of the Statefs forensic laboratories expressed frustration regardng the lack of funds available to hire and train qualified forensic analysts.h Further, Albany County District Attorney David Soares has gone on record saying mounting caseloads are causing delays and problems, and that his office has been flooded with cases since the expansion of the DNA database. Undoubtedly, other District Attorneysf offices are experiencing similar issues, but may be unwilling to publicly acknowledge this. In addition, we know that some District Attorneys and law enforcement agencies maintain their own DNA databases without linkage to the State Division of Criminal Justice Service's (DCJS) databank and without proper safeguards and oversight from the State.

There are many unanswered questions regarding expanding the DNA database including, proper crime lab operations, the amount of backlogs which will occur due to expansion, the amount of processing time needed, how to properly store samples and how to guarantee the disposal of DNA samples from non-convicted persons. Last year, (under my protest), the State Legislature greatly expanded the DNA database with no answers to these important questions.

I urge you not to rush into an even greater expansion of the database before proper hearings and studies are completed. In fact, there is evidence to show that expanding the DNA database does not increase the number of gcold hitsh leading to convictions. According to the DCJS statistics, there was a significant amount of gcold hitsh from the gdesignated offender poolh which resulted in conviction when the database was first expanded in 1999. However, subsequent expansion to the database in 2004 saw a diminished result in gcold hitsh and it is far too early to know the results of the 2006 expansion.

We need to ask ourselves, will the increased spending and training needed to expand the DNA database be worth it in the long run -- especially considering the increased backlog it will bring? I do not question the value and need for DNA technology. It has produced amazing results. But we have to expand the database responsibly. While it may sound good in theory to expand the DNA database yet again, we are simply not ready to do so at this time. I urge you to use prudence and caution when considering this expansion. I especially urge you to focus the Statefs resources on better organizing the DNA we have already collected and making sure that we have trained and properly supervised personnel to use the present DNA database to achieve optimal public safety results.

Thank you for your consideration and I am willing to discuss the matter further with you or your staff.

Sincerely,


Thomas K. Duane

29th Senate District


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