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DNA testing bill narrowed in committee

Feb 19, 2014 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A Wyoming legislative committee on Tuesday scaled back a proposal to require people arrested on serious charges to provide DNA samples.

The Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on Tuesday amended the bill proposed by Sen. Leslie Nutting, R-Cheyenne, so that DNA testing could occur only after a person was charged in court, not immediately after arrest.

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said the state needed to guard against creating an incentive for police to arrest people on trumped up charges solely to collect DNA.

"The example I use is they can falsely charge some type of felony, and they take you in and test you, and Monday morning, they say, 'sorry, the charges are dropped,' but they've already grabbed your DNA," Driskill said.

Nutting responded that she saw that as the point of the bill.

"That actually is the benefit of the law, in that you can find out more quickly if this person is innocent, or more quickly if there have been other serious crimes that the person was involved in," Nutting said.

The bill is called "Katie's Law" -- named in memory of Kathryn Sepich, a New Mexico State University student murdered in 2003 and whose killer was identified with DNA evidence after he was convicted of another crime.

Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, recommended changing the bill to allow DNA testing only after a prosecutor had reviewed why a person was arrested and determined the case against them was strong enough to merit filing charges in court.

"There's quite often a difference between what the original officer hangs paper on versus what actually gets entered in court and charged," Christensen said.

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