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Judge Stops Prisoner DNA Program

February 10, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ A judge impounded 1,200 DNA samples taken from convicted felons and ordered the state to stop compiling its DNA database until collection procedures are clarified.

Two groups of prisoners and parolees sued the state after Massachusetts began collecting the molecular makeup of 33 categories of convicted criminals, including prostitutes, rapists and murderers.

In one of the two suits, six plaintiffs argued that DNA collection is unlawful _ and runs the risk of error _ because the state does not have detailed regulations for the sampling.

Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein agreed, noting in his decision Monday that the DNA law passed last fall requires the State Police Crime Lab to have regulations for DNA sampling and analysis.

``It is undisputed that the defendants have not complied with the statute’s provisions,″ Borenstein wrote.

Borenstein said there is a possibility of wrongful criminal prosecution if DNA sampling is not properly done.

Benjamin Keehn, a lawyer for four of the plaintiffs, called the decision an important first-step victory. The plaintiffs still plan to challenge the constitutionality of the DNA collection, he said.

State officials described the injunction as a small setback based on a technicality. All it does is delay the implementation of the DNA law until procedures are established, authorities said.

State Police Capt. Robert Bird said state police are confident the DNA statute will hold up in court, since legal challenges by prisoners in several other states all failed.

Last month, Massachusetts became the 48th state to collect prisoner DNA with a simple finger pinprick. The information from the DNA samples, which is stored in a computer database, can then be compared to biological evidence found at crime scenes _ saliva, semen, blood, tissue samples, for example.

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