California Attorney General Jerry Brown: DNA collection legal, effective

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California Attorney General and democratic candidate for governor Jerry Brown (L) walks home with his campaign manager Steven Glazer after voting June 8, 2010 in Oakland, California.

California State Attorney General Jerry Brown says collecting DNA from felons is legal and effective in fighting crime. Brown was in federal court in San Francisco today to defend Proposition 69 – the voter-approved law that lets authorities collect and store DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued last October to overturn the law, claiming that taking DNA samples from convicted felons amounts to an unconstitutional search. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of appeals is hearing the case – Haskell v. Brown – today.

Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that there’s precedent for the law.

"This does minimally intrude upon someone’s life," said Brown. "So does a mug shot that stays in a file for the rest of your life, and so do fingerprints. And in this case, if you are arrested and then not charged, we have a procedure that will allow you to get your DNA out of our records."

“Half the crimes are committed by repeat offenders," said Brown. "This is a methodology that will catch murders, robbers, rapists and people going into homes at night and commit these terrible crimes.”

Today's hearing before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on collecting DNA from suspects comes less than a week after detectives in L.A. arrested 57-year-old Lonnie Franklin, Jr. in the “Grim Sleeper” case.

A state crime lab found markers in DNA collected at “Grim Sleeper” murder scenes that were similar to Franklin’s son, whose DNA was in the state database. The "familial link" led LAPD "cold case" investigators to Franklin, who was arrested at his South L.A. home last week.

Only California and Colorado approve the use of familial DNA connections in criminal investigations. Brown said he believes the US Supreme Court may ultimately decide on whether that’s constitutional.

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