Washington, DC – Congress is now considering legislation that originated in New Mexico. Katie's Law was named after a New Mexico State University graduate student who was murdered in 2003. A DNA sample later helped police identify the man who killed Katie Sepich.
Her parents pushed for legislation that requires law enforcement to collect DNA samples from people who commit serious crimes like rape or murder. Those samples are put in a database that could be used to connect people to unsolved violent crimes.
New Mexico State Representative John Heaton of Carlsbad sponsored the 2006 legislation. He says the law has become a prototype for other states and that "many, many people have ended up now being convicted and there also are many people who have been exonerated because the DNA matches didn't occur."
Heaton says Katie's law has safeguards to protect people's privacy and it even passed the scrutiny of the ACLU. DNA information is only available to law enforcement and if a person is NOT convicted or if charges are dropped, their DNA sample is removed from the database.
Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman introduced similar legislation in the US Senate this week. The bill calls for federal grants to help states begin or enhance DNA collection programs. It has already passed in the House of Representatives.