DNA Databank Oversight Panel

Minutes of the Meeting of June 14, 2011

The meeting convened at 9:35 a.m.

In attendance were members/designees Kenneth Zercie, Department of Public Safety (DPS) - Forensic Lab; Michael Bourke, DPS-Forensic Lab; Carll Ladd, DPS-Forensic Lab; Wanda White-Lewis, Department of Correction (DOC); George Camp, DOC; Lynn Milling, DOC; Michael Aiello, Court Support Services Division (CSSD); Joe Biela, Connecticut State Police; Karen Goodrow, Connecticut Innocence Project; Michael Gailor, Office of the Chief State's Attorney (OCSA); and Sarah Tischbein, Intern, OCSA.

The minutes of the meeting of March 8, 2011, were reviewed and unanimouly accepted without modification. There was no public comment.

There was discussion about the legislation that was passed by the legislature this year. First, it was noted that Public Act 11-9 was passed, which added the Chief Public Defender or his or her designee as a member of the oversight panel. Karen Goodrow from the Innocence Project was the representative of the Chief Public Defender at the meeting. Discussion was had regarding the provision in P.A. 11-9 that the Chief Public Defender “shall not participate in discussions concerning, or have access to records of, personally identifiable DNA information in the data bank.” It was agreed to that in order to comply with this provision the representative of the Chief Public Defender would excuse him or herself during the consideration of purges or in any other situation where such information was considered. It was noted that discussion that personally identifiable information normally takes place in executive session for the purpose of protecting the confidentiality of that information.

Discussion was also had of the other two pieces of legislation, H.B. No. 6489 and H.B. No. 6538, that were passed that related to the collection and processing of biological samples for DNA analysis. It was noted that while both had been passed by the legislature neither had yet been signed by the Governor. With respect to H.B. No. 6489, it was noted that the bill authorizes the taking of DNA samples from persons arrested for serious felonies and the testing of those samples by the lab but only as resources allow. The lab noted that they were not provided with any additional funding for the processing of these samples. They also noted that they will not be able to obtain a separate grant for the testing of these samples. Any monies that they use for the processing of these samples will be taken from other areas. They also noted that there currently is no system in place that would allow them to track what happens to cases after an arrest is made and a sample has been taken. Because the law requires the expungement of any profile taken from an arrestee when the charges that resulted in the taking of the sample have been dismissed or nolled the lab will need to be notified when such a result occurs so that they can do what the law requires them to. Similarly, they noted that they will need to know when any person arrested was convicted so that they can move the profiles into the convicted offender database. 

Dr. Bourke reported approximately 83,333 convicted offender samples have been submitted to the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory and that approximately 82,089 have been profiled and are resident in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The lab has approximately 1,600 samples that have yet to be processed. The forensic index contains 4,224 profiles. As of May 31, 2011, 4,152 forensic cases were backlogged awaiting DNA processing. The lab reports a total of 1,771 confirmed hits as of May 31, 2011, with over 100 more in the process of being confirmed. The lab received 473 samples in May.

The lab noted that the large and growing casework backlog is affecting the lab’s ability to keep up with hit confirmation as personnel is being shifted to try to alleviate the backlog. Because of the backlog the lab is focusing its efforts on violent crimes and is not currently processing property crimes.

There was discussion of whether email was secure enough to allow it to be used for transmitting information about hits to police departments. A concern was raise over the security of the email system and whether anyone would have access to personal identifying information. There also was discussion about whether individuals at the lab could testify about persons who were matched to a piece of evidence through the databank if a confirmatory sample was not obtained from the person. It was noted that the statute authorized the lab to disclose information when there was a match without a requirement of a confirmatory sample but the issue will be considered further.

Sergeant Joseph Biela of the Department of Public Safety DNA unit reported that the unit has been having difficulty getting the paperwork from court authorizing the taking of DNA samples. He reported that the taking of samples from convicted individuals who are not on probation has been successfully transitioned to the Court Support Services Division (CSSD). With respect to those individuals who have refused to give samples that were owed to the State Police he indicated that all cases within the statute of limitations have been cleared. There are 3,561 who owed samples but did not provide them but their refusal is beyond the statute of limitations.

George Camp of the Department of Correction reported that they have had good success taking samples upon conviction but that they recently had two refusals. That makes the total number of inmates who have refused and are still in custody 424. None of those is scheduled to be released before October 1 when the law permitting DOC to use force to take a sample, if necessary, will take effect.

Michael Aiello of the Court Support Services Division reported that they have had a slight increase in the number of cases in which they are required to take samples but attributes the increase to the new requirement that they take samples from some people who are not on probation. He reported that they, too, are having difficulty getting the forms from the court authorizing the taking of the samples. They have developed a protocol for the taking of samples of persons who are not on probation. In the first group of nonprobationers from whom they attempted to collect samples, they had 29 who complied and 15 who did not.

Karen Goodrow from the Connecticut Innocence Project reported that they had applied for a DNA grant. The grant would provide funds for the review of the convictions of persons convicted of serious or violent felonies. The grant would include funding for positions at the laboratory as well as funding for the Division of Criminal Justice and the Innocence Project.

Executive Session

The meeting went into executive session at 10:49 a.m. It came out of executive session at 10:57 a.m. The following actions were taken as a result of the session:

6-14-11 A – No action required

6-14-11 B-H all purged.

The next meeting date was set for September 13, 2011, at 9:30 a.m.

Upon motion and second, the meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.