The Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal

The Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal

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Assemblyman Jim Cooper Talks DNA and Criminal Investigations

Assemblyman Jim Cooper
Assemblyman Jim Cooper

DNA was first used in criminal investigations in 1986...the same year the Golden State Killer quit committing crimes. Some see a connection although it was DNA that eventually brought Joseph DeAngelo to justice.

But Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) says the Golden State Killer would not be caught today given limited DNA collection thanks to voters passing Prop 47 which was called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. It reduced seven crimes from felonies to misdemeanors

Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) released the following statement regarding the Golden State Killer’s plea of guilty and the use of DNA to solve these horrific crimes almost 40 years later:

“Yesterday, we witnessed justice being served in the horrific Golden State Killer case, also known as the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker and Visalia Ransacker. Joseph DeAngelo pled guilty to 13 homicides and kidnappings during a two-decade violent crime spree in which he terrified communities all over California. The case was ultimately solved due to DNA, which is arguably the greatest tool ever given to law enforcement to find the guilty and exonerate the innocent.

In 2014, voters passed the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Prop 47) that reduced seven crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. All those crimes were drug possession and theft related. That Proposition has had dangerous unintended consequences. Nowhere in the Prop 47 campaign did the supporters tell the voters that it would undue a significant portion the "DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act” (Prop 69) that was previously passed by the voters. 

This matters because studies conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under then Attorney General Jerry Brown show the correlation between these types of crimes and the violent crimes of rape, robbery, and murder are directly linked. The conclusion from AG Brown stated:

“Collecting DNA at the time of arrest is cracking cold cases that might have gone unsolved forever...It isparticularly significant that individuals arrested for non-violent crimes have been linked to the commission of violent crimes such as murder and rape.”

Since the passage of Prop 47, the number of DNA collections has plummeted. The state went from collecting 15,000 DNA samples a month for criminal analysis to about 5,000 DNA samples a month – reducing the database samples collected by two-thirds. And, from 2014 to the end of 2016 the DOJestimatesthat there had been 2000+ LESS hits of unknown to known persons in the DNA database and it is estimated that over 450 of these are tied to serious violent crime, including rape.

DOJ studies also show that 78% of cases of unsolved rape, murder, and robbery are connected to a lower level offense and up to 47% of DNA matches in rape cases come from an offender arrested for fraud, simple drug possession, or low-level property crimes. Examples of these types of cases from the Sacramento area include:

On November 11, 1973, two friends Doris Derryberry 13, and Valerie Lane 12, were abducted while they were on their way to go shopping in the quiet California town of Linda. Two hours after they were missing, their bodies were found in the woods near Marysville. Both young girls had been murdered execution style with a shotgun and Doris Derryberry had been sexually assaulted. The case went unsolved for 40 years until DNA from the scene was uploaded into the DNA database. A “match” was made on William Lloyd Harbour who was in the DNA database for drug related offenses in 1997. This evidence also lead to the arrest for the murder of his cousin Larry Don Patterson. If this case happened today these murders would go unsolved due to the inability for law enforcement to collect DNA on drug possession convictions.

On May 23, 1989, 80-year-old Sophia McAllister was found raped and beaten in her home. The case remained unsolved for two decades. In 2009, DNA evidence was matched to Donald Carter when he was arrested on drug charges and swabbed for DNA. Carter was eventually convicted of first-degree murder involving rape and robbery. Today this case would be unsolved because of Prop 47, The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.

On March 5, 2012, 13-year-old Jessica Funk-Haslam was murdered in a baseball dugout in Rancho Cordova. Jessica had been beaten and stabbed in the neck. DNA was recovered at the scene. In May 2013, Ryan Roberts was arrested for an unrelated crime and his DNA was collected. On August 8, 2013 Ryan Roberts was arrested for the murder of Jessica Funk-Haslam. There is no doubt Roberts would not have been convicted if it was not for DNA.

Then there is the Golden State Killer. In 1979, Joseph DeAngelo was employed as a police officer for the Auburn, California Police Department. That same year he was caught stealing a hammer and dog repellant from a local drug store. This was before Prop 69 passed in 2004 so his DNA wasn’t collected, just like it would not have been today because of Prop 47 unintended consequences. If it had, these crimes would have been solved years ago.

This is a victim of violent crime issue, but it is especially a woman’s issue as we now see in the Golden State murder case. Sexual assault data tells us that 1 in 5 women report being raped in their lifetime and the majority of these women are under the age of 24. Low-income women are 4 times more likely of being victims of violent crime. 

It is indisputable the lesser public offenses of property crime and drug possession are linked to the more serious violent crimes of rape and murder. It is undisputable that the collection of forensic DNA from these “low-level” offenders solves cold cases of rape and murder. Until this issue is fixed many rapists and murders will remain free…the science is CLEAR. Something must be done!”

Assemblyman Cooper supports a new initiative on the November ballot.

The “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2020” fixes four specific flaws contained in recent criminal justice reforms — addressing violent crime classification and serial theft, as well as parole reform and DNA collection.

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