It looks like the savage known as Anthony Casper Dias might be worth something after all.
Dias, whose 2005 crime spree included the hours-long, repeated rapes of girls as young as 13, is being called the poster boy for a proposed law that would allow law enforcement to take DNA samples from those arrested for serious crimes, and add them to a state database.
This is the law’s second time around; the Legislature voted down the measure in July 2005.
What a mistake that was.
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Had the measure passed, Dias would have been swabbed when he was pulled over for a felony hit-and-run on July 31, 2005.
But he wasn’t. And a month later, he committed his first rape — then five more, including two sisters who detailed for me what Dias did to them and their family on Halloween 2005. It was worse than any horror movie.
So when I consider this measure, I think of them, and the time and manpower and money it took to finally catch Dias, who was later convicted and sentenced to 263 years in prison.
The House could vote on the measure at any time.
But state Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, chair of the Senate judiciary committee, isn’t quite ready to pass the measure once it gets to the Senate.
“It is about those girls,” he told me. “But it’s also about our constitutional protections. It is not a facile, easy undertaking here.”
Yes, DNA evidence could save investigative costs, Kline said. But it also costs money to take and store DNA — and to get rid of it. Once a person is exonerated or not charged, they could petition to have the crime lab destroy their sample and profile.
“We’re talking about money that is going to be spent on thousands of people upon arrest,” Kline said, “as opposed to hundreds of people at the time of conviction.”
And, much as he hated to admit it, Kline said, you can’t always trust law enforcement to do the right thing.
“Police are human.”
No kidding. On Wednesday, the treasurer of the Lakewood police union was arrested, suspected of embezzling more than $120,000 from a fund intended for the families of the four Lakewood officers killed in 2009.
Here’s a cop accused of stealing from the survivors of his murdered comrades. Who’s to say there isn’t a cop who would mess with DNA evidence?
There’s a lot contained in one little swab. It’s not just our DNA, but our identity, our privacy, our innocence — all that we humans hold close.
And as our technology advances, there’s a chance our DNA could be used for more than just law enforcement. We could be denied insurance coverage based on certain markers. The possibilities are enough to keep anyone up at night.
That includes the ACLU of Washington, which, in a letter to lawmakers opposing the measure, called it “an invasive search that is not justified by documented improvements in public safety.”
But there’s no denying that DNA evidence could help us sleep better, too.
DNA samples are more reliable than fingerprints, which can be incomplete.
It has helped make quick work of cold cases in each of the 25 states where it is taken from suspected felons.
Virginia began DNA testing arrestees in 2003. As of May 2011, there were 333,416 DNA samples in the state database, resulting in 7,312 hits. Those hits assisted 7,161 investigations, including 561 murders and more than 1,000 sex crimes, according to that state’s Department of Forensic Science.
And, time and again, DNA has helped exonerate those wrongly convicted.
The labs where the samples are kept would be subject to annual audits and federal standards. Identifying information would be kept separate, access to the database restricted.
If we miss this second chance, I hate to think of the money that would be wasted searching for information that we could have had in our very hands all along.
More than that, I hate to think of the people who will be victimized, but could have been spared, had we used this tool.
Do we really want to let scum like Dias slip through the legal system out of worry over the flawed folks in it?
Sleep on it. Try, anyway.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
Some stories you never forget.