Senators voted 50-10 Tuesday to pass the DNA Databank Expansion Bill. As Chris Morris reports, the bill has a lot support, but it could be tested in the Assembly.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the Assembly to act quickly to pass the bill, which he called “an important step in protecting New Yorkers and modernizing the state’s criminal justice system.”
State Sen. Betty Little, a Republican who represents northeastern New York, called DNA “the 21st Century fingerprint.”
The state’s DNA databank was established in 1994 and has since helped solve some 10,000 crimes. That figure includes about 900 murders and 3,500 sexual assaults.
Law-enforcement agencies and advocacy groups statewide support the bill. Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne is a past president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. He lobbied strongly for the bill last year.
“It’s one of those things that kind of improves both sides,” Champagne said. “I think the last count we had, there’s been 27 exonerations from DNA in New York state to date. I know the number of convictions obtained is well over 2,700 last time I saw, where DNA was the first link to the individual who was ultimately convicted of the crime.”
Champagne says the legislation isn’t just about convicting wrongdoers.
“It has the ability to not only solve the crime but also exonerate someone who has been wrongfully accused,” he said.
Champagne says the costs associated with DNA sampling have “come down substantially” and that it’s no more invasive than a fingerprint.
“The time has come,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s long overdue because the technology has been improving, but I think the technology is now to a point where it’s clearly the right thing to do and it’s clearly the right time to do it. I have the highest praise for the governor for stepping up to the plate on this important issue.”
But this bill isn’t law yet, and it might not be a slam dunk in the Assembly.
Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, a Republican from Willsboro, says “a lot” of Democrats view the legislation as an invasion of privacy, but not her.
“There have been so many people that have been wrongly accused,” Sayward said, adding that an expanded DNA database also helps solve rape cases.
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, a Republican from Peru, says she also supports the bill.
For North Country Public Radio, I’m Chris Morris.