Do we need Katie’s Law in Wisconsin? Twenty-five states now have a law requiring DNA samples be taken when arrests are made for some felonies. Jayann Sepich of New Mexico testifies on a bill that would enact a similar requirement here. “I was raised to believe that if you know how to good and you choose not to, that it is wrong,” she tells lawmakers. “We know how to do good. And I can tell you that if you know that these lives can be saved and you choose not to do it, that in the weeks, the months, the years to come, there will be a list of Wisconsin residents that could have been saved.”
The New Mexico law is named after Sepich’s daughter Katie, who was brutally raped and murdered in 2003. Her mom says Katie might be alive if investigators had DNA on the man who was eventually convicted – he had an extensive record of violent crimes. The proposal from state Senator Sheila Harsdorf would set up a pilot program with funding through the state Department of Justice.
Iowa County Sheriff Steve Micheck testified against the bill (SB 214) on behalf of the Badger State Sheriffs Association. “The cost is there when we’re talking about collecting the DNA profile,” he says. “There’s a lot of work that need to be done yet, quite honestly.” Micheck says many smaller departments will be hard pressed to pay for the new policy once funding for the pilot program expires.
Madison police chief Noble Wray supports the proposal. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when this is going to occur in the state of Wisconsin,” he says. “I would encourage that we pursue this sooner rather than later.”
The NAACP also testified against the bill, and Representatives Robert Turner of Racine and Fred Kessler of Milwaukee raised constitutional concerns. Kessler, noting the Wisconsin constitution protects residents from unauthorized searches, urged Harsdorf to pursue a constitutional amendment rather than a change to state law.
AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (1:15)