Inadvertantly Shed DNA Was Fair Game for Police
(CN) - Prosecutors properly used DNA shed by a man at the police station to convict him of a rape he committed two years earlier, a Maryland appeals court ruled.
The attack occurred at about 5 a.m. on April 2, 2006, at the Bel Air, Md., home of the victim, who is unnamed in the court record. The perpetrator broke in through the basement door, entered the victim's bedroom, pressed a pillow against her face, blindfolded her with his T-shirt, raped her repeatedly, and fled.
Though the victim did not see her attacker's face, she described him to police as a medium-built Caucasian with a "metallic scent."
A crime-scene technician collected blood from the victim's bed pillow and the area near the broken door, which the police spent two years comparing with consensual DNA samples taken from about 20 potential suspects, including several of the victim's neighbors.
In July 2008 the victim told the lead investigator, Trooper First Class Dana Wenger, that she suspected her former schoolmate, Glenn Joseph Raynor. She explained that Raynor had been the previous owner of her home, and that his body type matched that of her attacker.
During a 30-minute interview with Raynor at the station weeks later, Wenger and Sgt. James DeCourcey noticed Raynor had a metallic odor similar to what the victim had described.
Though Raynor refused to let the officers take a DNA swab of his mouth, the officers observed him repeatedly rubbing his bare arms on the rests of the chair. Minutes after he left, DeCourcey took swabs of the armrests, and a DNA analysis revealed a match with the blood collected at the crime scene.
Once the police arrested Raynor, they took a DNA swab of his mouth. It matched both the blood from the pillow, and the victim's vaginal and anal swabs taken after the rape.
Before trial, Raynor argued unsuccessfully that the warrantless collection and testing of cellular material he shed during his interview constituted an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
After a jury found him guilty of two counts of rape and related crimes, for which he was sentenced to 100 years in prison, Raynor appealed his conviction, on the basis of the testing itself, saying the analysis of his "genetic material" violated the Fourth Amendment.
The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed, 4-3, on Wednesday, tossing aside Raynor's claim that DNA is "physically and functionally different" than fingerprints.
"The police did not seize genetic material from petitioner, nor in any way search him for it, but rather, collected it from an object on which the material had been left," Chief Judge Mary Barbera wrote for the majority. "In the end, we hold that DNA testing of the 13 identifying junk loci within genetic material, not obtained by means of a physical intrusion into the person's body, is no more a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, than is the testing of fingerprints, or the observation of any other identifying feature revealed to the public-visage, apparent age, body type, skin color. That petitioner's DNA could have disclosed more intimate information is of no moment in the present case because there is no allegation that the police tested his DNA sample for that purpose."
Three judges wrote in dissent that the DNA "search" was unreasonable.
"Raynor's expectation of privacy in his DNA deserves the utmost protection because he was a free citizen at the time of police questioning," Judge Sally Adkins wrote on the behalf of the dissenters.
She later added: "There was a search here, and it was an unreasonable one that violated Raynor's Fourth Amendment constitutional rights." (Emphasis in original).