DNA returns expanded for cold cases

Cold case investigators may now get more returns when searching the state’s DNA database in the hunt for suspects, according to an announcement Friday from the office of the state’s top prosecutor.

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has told county prosecutors that the state will help local detectives solve aging cases, under special circumstances, by supplying the identities of a suspect’s blood relatives in the DNA database.

In other words, if detectives can’t find a match when searching the database, they may get one that’s just close enough to give them the break they need.

Check it out:

News Release
April 25, 2008

Brown Unveils DNA Technique To Crack Unsolved Crimes

SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a new DNA search policy that will improve the ability of local law enforcement to investigate unsolved violent crimes by providing new investigative leads.

California will help local law enforcement catch violent criminals by providing, under special circumstances, the identity of a person in the DNA database who is the close relative of a suspect, Attorney General Brown told the California District Attorneys Association at their annual DNA/Cold Case Summit. This new technique will assist local law enforcement with unsolved crimes committed by killers and sex offenders.

Currently, the state laboratory alerts local law enforcement when a crime scene sample exactly matchesat all 26 genetic markersthe DNA of an offender in the state offender database. 15 or more shared markers indicate that the person in the database could be a close relative of the source of the crime scene evidence. Under Californias new search technique, the state laboratory will release this relatives identity to local law enforcement if the agency adheres to a strict protocol to ensure that personal privacy is carefully protected.

Californias DNA offender database currently contains more than 1 million profiles from persons convicted of any felony and those arrested or charged with a homicide or sex offense. To date, the laboratory has released more than 5,000 exact matches, cold hits which provide key evidence to help solve crimes.

Californias new search technique imposes multiple conditions, as specified in the attached policy bulletin, which must be met before the California Department of Justice will release the identity of a suspects relative. This process was developed to strike an effective balance between privacy concerns and need to provide information that may solve a violent crime.

If there is a serious public safety risk, for example a violent sex offender is at large, state scientists may also search the database in an effort to identify possible relatives of the suspect. If such a search returns multiple results, scientists will use a kinship analysis to determine whether any of the matches are likely to be a relative. The local agency must then conduct an additional genetic test to confirm the relatedness.

At more than 1 million DNA profiles, the California Attorney Generals Office has the third largest DNA database in the world, just behind the United States as a whole and the United Kingdom. Each month, the laboratory releases more than 200 cold hits, matches between crime scene samples and persons in the state database.

In September 2007, Attorney General Brown announced that the backlog of DNA samples collected from convicted felons and certain arrestees–which stood at 295,000 in July 2006–had been completely eliminated.

For more information on DNA testing in California visit: http://ag.ca.gov/bfs/

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