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DNA testing bill introduced in Nevada Senate

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — DNA samples would be taken from people arrested on felony charges under a bill introduced Tuesday in the Nevada Senate. It’s the second attempt to pass “Brianna’s Law,” a proposal that died on the last day of the 2011 session.

SB243 is named after Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old college student who was kidnapped in 2008 while sleeping on a friend’s couch in Reno. Her body was found weeks later in a vacant lot. She had been raped and murdered.

James Biela, an ex-Marine and pipefitter, was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to death. He was also convicted at the same trial for raping two women in 2007, just months before Denison’s kidnapping. All the crimes occurred at or near the University of Nevada, Reno.

Denison’s family and backers of the bill say Denison might be alive today if officers were allowed to take Biela’s DNA sample after a previous arrest in 1996. They argue he might have been identified sooner.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday.

During testimony last session, concerns were raised over civil liberties and whether it would infringe on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Under existing law, DNA samples for a database are obtained upon conviction.

The bill includes a provision requiring DNA information to be purged from criminal databases if there is no conviction.

The bill also imposes an additional $2 assessment on anyone convicted of a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony to help defray the cost of obtaining DNA samples and conducting the genetic analysis.

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