Some convicted felons whose DNA never made it to a Wisconsin database are being ordered to give samples to their local sheriffs. The Justice Department said last week that 12,000 convicts don’t have their DNA in the database even though a nine year old law requires them to do so.
Authorities are first going after felons still under supervision but not in custody. State corrections’ officials said felons who don’t voluntarily give DNA samples can be held until they do. The missing samples were discovered after accused Milwaukee serial killer Walter Ellis provided a DNA sample in 2001 which never made it to the database. Prosecutors said it allowed Ellis to be free longer than he should have, during which time he killed one of his seven victims.
However state corrections’ spokesman John Dipko said the 12,000 figure is too high, based on his department’s review of the felons in question. But the DOJ said its numbers are accurate.
Meanwhile Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is pushing for a change in law that allows DNA samples to be collected when defendants are booked into jail rather than convicted. The proposal first came up in the legislature in the early days of DNA cataloguing, Governor Jim Doyle believes it’s “worth revisiting the discussion.”
Milwaukee lawmaker Senator Jeff Plale and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and both said they support the sheriff’s plan.
Chisholm believes it would be an effect tool in catching criminals as the pool of potential evidence would be expanded greatly. He said with the current technique of sampling, a swab on the cheek compared to the prior approach of drawing, Clarke’s proposal would be inexpensive and easy to implement.
The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes sampling at the jail level saying it violates the fundamental right of innocent until proven guilty.