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Kentucky missed DNA samples from up to 7,000 felons

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky failed to collect DNA samples from between 6,300 and 7,000 felons over a four-year period, so now it’s asking many who are no longer in custody to give those samples voluntarily, state criminal justice officials said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Beshear has appointed an investigator to look into how it happened.

The samples were required to be taken from anyone convicted of a felony on or after March 27, 2009 and added to a state and national database under a law passed that year. DNA has been collected from 75,600 felons since the law was enacted.

Almost 99 percent of them were convicted of property crimes, drug offenses, burglary and assault.

Beshear appointed Transportation Cabinet Inspector General Cindy James to investigate what happened and why. Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson said she was to meet with James later Thursday. Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said he met with James on Wednesday.

Brown said he’s unsure how the mistake happened, but probation and parole officials are sending letters to about 4,000 people affected who are no longer in state custody or under state supervision and hope to have as many people as possible voluntarily give a DNA sample. State officers will go out and look for anyone who cannot be located after a letter and registered mail are sent.

“There is a burden that goes along with that conviction,” Brown said. “That is you are required to provide a DNA sample.”

Anyone who is found and declines to give a DNA sample could face a misdemeanor charge.

“Hopefully, we’re not going to charge anybody,” Brown said.

Ed Monahan, head of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, said it would not be surprising if those people no longer in custody file challenges over whether the DNA sampling can now legally take place.

Bill Sharp, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said what the state does next, particularly with people no longer incarcerated or on probation or parole, will determine if there’s any legal action to be taken in the future.

“Suffice it to say, we are interested in how corrections intends to collect these samples and we intend to monitor their efforts at doing so,” Sharp said.

The analyzed DNA samples go into the Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS. Law enforcement agencies from around the country have access to CODIS and can take DNA samples from a crime scene and try to match it to samples from known felons in the system.

The FBI said the National DNA Index contains more than 10 million genetic profiles as of June 2013. Kentucky has more than 82,000 DNA samples on file that aided in 1,024 investigations, according to FBI records.

The lack of DNA samples from some felons came to light recently when a staff member at a state prison noticed several people had come in without DNA samples being taken, Thompson said. Thompson was reviewing reports and data at the time and noticed the omission. After that, she said, it was a matter of running a check of the information to turn up the numbers.

“It really was a little bit of a fluke how I caught it,” Thompson said.

Brown said there doesn’t appear to be a pattern or obvious reason why the samples weren’t taken.

“It seems to be a situation where, across the board, there have been some that have been missed,” Brown said.


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