Jan. 12, 2005 – The American Civil Liberties Union has asked police to halt a DNA sweep being conducted as part of an investigation into a three-year-old murder case in the small Cape Cod community of Truro, Massachusetts.
Police launched the sweep last Wednesday in the hope that DNA testing will identify the person who had sex with Christa Worthington around the time she was stabbed to death on January 6, 2002. The police are looking for DNA that matches semen found on the womanâ€™s body.
"The mass collection of DNA samples by the police is a serious intrusion on personal privacy that has proven to be both ineffective and wasteful," wrote John Reinstein, legal director of the state's American Civil Liberties Union chapter, in a letter to local District Attorney Michael Oâ€™Keefe.
Reuters reports that police began asking male residents to voluntarily submit saliva samples after a $25,000 reward and three years of investigation failed to produce the killer. According to the Cape Cod Times, at least 77 samples have been collected in the town of 1,600, and police might expand the sweep to surrounding communities.
This is the second time police have asked people to submit DNA samples in this case. In 2002, police collected more than 100 samples following the crime. Police have said the DNA samples collected in the sweep will only be used in this investigation and not be added to a database.
A few people have declined to give samples, according to news reports. Police said investigators will closely watch individuals who fail to "volunteer" their genetic code.
Civil libertarians question whether DNA sweeps are truly voluntary and believe the tactics violate Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment, which bars self-incrimination.
DNA dragnets have rarely succeeded in netting suspects for the police. According to a study conducted last year by Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, only one DNA dragnet out of eighteen reported to have been carried out in the United States has resulted in the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator being sought. The lone success was a small-scale sweep in Lawrence, Massachusetts that targeted 25 employees at a nursing home where a resident was raped.