Since the passage of Proposition 69 in 2004, California significantly expanded its DNA database. Originally only to document the DNA of perpetrators of serious, violent crimes, voters passed Proposition 69 in 2004 to allow expansion of the number of crimes for which DNA samples get collected, Bill Lockyer said.
As knowledge of criminal profiling grows, law enforcement’s knowledge of the escalation of criminals from one type of crime to another type has increased. This understanding formed the basis for enlarging the number of crimes for which samples get taken, explained Bill Lockyer.
The now-massive database has helped the state crack a number of cold cases, including that of a serial killer who had terrorized Los Angeles county for three decades. Law enforcement had pursued the serial rapist and murderer for nearly 30 years when a DNA hit revealed the name of the killer who had become known as the Grim Sleeper, says Bill Lockyer. The state apprehended, tried, convicted, and would have executed Lonnie David Franklin Jr. for his egregious crimes had he not been found dead in his San Quentin prison cell on March 28, 2020.
In addition to helping close cases, the database has also helped clear people who were wrongly accused. This helps ensure the state does not wrongly convict those suspected of a crime but who did not actually commit it. The California State DNA Index System does not only help solve crimes within its borders. The state shares its information with law enforcement across the US, and its samples have helped solve 104,368 state and national investigations, say the state Attorney General’s office with which attorney Bill Lockyer formerly served.
Periodically, Bill Lockyer explained, the state considers other propositions to add or subtract from the list of crimes that require a DNA sample for the database. When 2014’s Proposition 47 decreased the severity of a number of felonies to misdemeanors, it reduced the number of crimes that required samples. In 2020, the state considers Proposition 20 to restore those crimes to the list that requires samples. This means it will expand the database to include DNA samples for certain crimes now considered misdemeanors, but that until 2014 were felonies.
Since crimes such as voyeurism, or Peeping Toms, are considered a stepping stone, or precursor to more serious crimes such as rape, these criminals would have their DNA samples included in the database. One of the facts of the case of the late serial killer Ted Bundy was that as a youth, he committed voyeuristic crimes such as peeping through windows to watch women in his neighborhood, says Bill Lockyer. We now know that those types of crimes and other deviant behaviors in youth point to the potential of the individual to perpetrate violent crimes. As law enforcement learns more about how violent criminals develop and escalate, the importance of documenting misdemeanors that are considered precursory crimes increases.
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