The family of a Syracuse murder victim is trying to persuade Governor Andrew Cuomo to support legislation to permit the collection of DNA samples at the time of a felony arrest.
Paige Archambeault has written to Governor Cuomo in hopes his support will persuade the State Assembly to approve Assembly bill A1978 . Archambeault is the daughter of Carol Nelson who was murdered on July 1, 2007. Nelson's murderer, Glenn Shoop, was released from jail and awaiting sentencing on a charge of unlawful imprisonment at the time.
Archambeault says had authorities been able to sample Shoop's DNA at the time of his arrest, police would have connected him to an earlier rape in East Syracuse and Carol Nelson would probably be alive today.
The legislation which has been introduced three years in a row has broad support in the State Senate, but has been stalled in the Codes Committee in the Assembly. Syracuse Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli is a co-sponsor of the DNA legislation. He has written letters in 2008 and 2010 asking his colleagues to move it out of committee for a vote. Magnarelli told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon Thursday, "I will do everything I can to move the bill."
The idea of taking DNA at the time of arrest concerns many civil libertarians who feel it could violate a suspect's civil rights since they are considered innocent until proven guilty. They also fear that a DNA database could be misused by law enforcement. Barrie Gewanter of the New York Civil Liberties Union feels if police have "probable cause (to believe a suspect commited another crime), police should get a warrant." "We don't want a data base of innocent people." Gewanter added.
Many police officials however compare the collection of DNA to fingerprinting which is done at the time of arrest. Archambeault points out that 23 states already collect DNA from people arrested for crimes. Tracy Nigro, another daughter of Carol Nelson calls fingerprinting "old school" and says DNA is nothing more than modern crime fighting.
The Nelson family's efforts have won the support of numerous police agencies and prosecutors across the state as well as Senator Chuck Schumer who recently sponsored legislation to help states pay the cost of setting up DNA databases. Thursday afternoon, Schumer told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "I will be joinging with the Nelson family to lobby not only the Governor but anyone in the legislature to get this done. It makes emminent sense."
Cuomo's office has not yet responded to CNY Central's request for comment.
Click here to download and read letters from the Nelson family to Gov. Cuomo and from Magnarelli to the Codes Committee chairman.