A day after the Queens district attorney announced he’d asked the state to approve a new type of DNA analysis in hopes that it would help police develop additional leads in the case of a female jogger found strangled this summer in Howard Beach, State Sen. Phil Boyle on Friday introduced legislation that would authorize the use of the controversial method in some cases.
Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said he drafted the measure after speaking with Philip Vetrano, father of Karina Vetrano, 30, whose body was found near a jogging path at the north end of Spring Creek Park in Queens on Aug. 2. The NYPD said she had been sexually assaulted.
“Having worked on DNA-related legislation for over 25 years, I see the use of ‘familial’ DNA testing as the next significant step in assisting our law enforcement officials in solving these sickening crimes and getting these violent criminals off our streets,” Boyle said in a statement.
Boyle’s proposal came one day after District Attorney Richard A. Brown asked the Division of Criminal Justice Service’s Commission on Forensic Science to approve the use of familial DNA searches. The commission, which discussed it briefly at its quarterly meeting in Manhattan on Friday, directed its DNA Subcommittee to conduct a comprehensive review and make a recommendation on its use in New York.
If Boyle’s proposal becomes law, police can focus in on relatives of the offenders — whose profiles are in New York State and federal law enforcement databases — as possible suspects.
Familial DNA searches, critics said, produce a very high false positive rate. They say not all familial DNA searches turn up people related to the actual perpetrators.
“The biggest problem is false positives,” said Marvin Schechter, a Manhattan defense attorney and a member of the commission. “That’s why the FBI doesn’t use it.”
Other concerns, Schechter and critics pointed out, include invasion of privacy and racial disparity. Familial DNA searches, they say, will pull out DNA profiles of individuals from a particular race.
“The African-American population is huge in these databases,” Schechter said. “So, what you’re basically doing is a form of genetic search.”
The bill, Boyle said, would only allow familial DNA searches to be conducted in violent crimes, which he defines as any physical assault; where DNA came from one contributor; and after all other investigative leads have been pursued.
Those criteria are nearly identical to the Karina Vetrano slaying. Among the physical evidence the NYPD recovered from her body was DNA belonging to a man, Brown said. The genetic profile did not match any known offenders.
Familial DNA searching is being used in 10 states, including California, Colorado, Michigan and Florida, Boyle said. Maryland considered the technique, Schechter said, and barred it.
With John Valenti