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(RICHMOND) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the California Department of Justice's DNA Data Bank has obtained more than 1,000 hits linking DNA profiles from convicted felons to old and cold criminal cases.
"DNA has revolutionized the work of law enforcement, helping investigators catch criminals who thought they had gotten away with rapes and murders committed decades ago," Lockyer said. "Every single day, we are improving public safety and preventing further crimes by using DNA to identify and prosecute criminals, exonerate the innocent and bring justice and closure to victims."
Since taking office in 1999, the Attorney General has made improving the DNA laboratory and the expanded use of its technology one of his top priorities. Lockyer lobbied for $25 million in "cold case" grants that provided law enforcement agencies throughout the state with the resources they needed to submit for DNA analysis crime scene evidence that had been sitting for years in cold storage.
Under state law, individuals convicted of 36 serious and violent felonies are required to submit biological samples that yield DNA profiles that are stored in the CAL-DNA Data Bank. Those felonies include murder, manslaughter, rape, sexual assault, first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, carjacking and arson. Profiles extracted from crime scene evidence are compared to the profiles in the Data Bank, and if there is a match, the hit is confirmed with additional tests, and the law enforcement agency that submitted the crime scene evidence is notified.
The 1,000th hit came from a case in Santa Barbara County. Because the investigation is ongoing, Lockyer could not provide more details.
Currently operating out of a 68,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility in Richmond that also houses the California Cold Hit and the Missing Persons DNA programs, the CAL-DNA Data Bank was established in 1994. Between 1994 and 1999, eight hits were made. Since then, the number of old cases solved has steadily increased as more DNA profiles of convicted felons and forensic DNA profiles developed from crime scene evidence are uploaded into their respective databases. Currently, the CAL-DNA Data Bank contains 274,000 convicted felon profiles and 9,300 forensic profiles.
As of the end of September, the CAL-DNA Data Bank had obtained 1,068 hits linking DNA crime scene evidence to specific felon offenders, and aided in 1,286 criminal investigations by linking DNA crime scene evidence to other criminal cases. A monthly record was achieved in September, when the CAL-DNA Data Bank made 110 hits that aided in 115 criminal investigations, many dating back more than 20 years.
"We've gone from linking individuals to old, cold cases at a rate of less than one a year to more than three a day," Lockyer said. "What used to be considered a futuristic concept is now accepted science that is embraced and relied on daily by investigators, prosecutors and jurors, who demand to base their verdicts on concrete, scientific evidence."
"We usually think of TV shows as being ahead of the state-of-the art DNA curve, but ‘CSI' is becoming a reality," said Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who has supported and authored legislation expanding the number of convicted felons in the CAL-DNA Data Bank. "Just this week, a murderer was jailed in California for a crime he is suspected of committing 18 years ago, linked to the crime by DNA from an eyelash that was collected by a diligent police investigator two decades ago."
The first hit by CAL-DNA Data Bank was made in 1994 and involved the brutal rape and murder of a 76-year-old Richmond woman. James King was subsequently arrested, found guilty and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The second hit was made after a profile developed by the Orange County Crime lab was submitted to CAL-DNA Lab in 1995. A data bank search hit on Gerald Parker, who after his arrest, confessed to six rape-homicides, one of which had resulted in the earlier conviction of Kevin Green. The hit in this case not only identified the real killer, but exonerated Green, who had served 17 years in prison. Parker was found guilty and sentenced to death.
The third hit involved evidence from a 1992 murder of five women in Oklahoma City. The evidence was processed by the Oklahoma State Crime Lab and a DNA profile was sent to CAL-DNA Data Bank in 1996. A search resulted in a hit on Danny Hooks, who had previously been convicted of rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. Hooks was located and arrested in San Jose.
"The first three of the 1,068 hits we've obtained show the power of DNA to solve brutal crimes, exonerate the innocent and reach across state lines to help solve cases," Lockyer said.