Friday, June 19, 2009

DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! One of the most important functions of state government is to do everything possible to protect Oklahomans from those who would harm us.
In the past 15 years, the technology available to investigate and prosecute crimes has improved dramatically. As anyone knows who watches crime dramas on television, DNA identification is as important today as fingerprints were a generation ago.

As we have seen advances in investigative technology, it is important that state law keep up with the science. An important step in the right direction was creation in the 1990s of the state’s DNA database of offenders.

My good friend, Bryan County’s former state Rep. James Dunegan, was the House author of that original bill. Within months of passage of that original bill, a heinous multiple murder in Oklahoma City was solved when DNA evidence matched evidence from that gruesome crime scene with a criminal behind bars in California.

A more recent example of how that technology is helping solve crimes was the tragic case of OU ballet student Julie Buskin. She was murdered in 1996 and the case had gone cold. A few years ago, the original DNA database was expanded to include more criminals, a match occurred with the Buskin crime scene and her killer was identified and convicted.

This year, I helped Sen. Jonathan Nichols, a Republican from Norman, to pass a bill named in Ms. Buskin’s memory. Julie’s Law adds new misdemeanor crimes to those that can result in the harvesting of DNA. The DNA would only be collected upon conviction of those crimes.

Crimes being added to those that can result in DNA collection include outraging public decency, peeping tom and resisting arrest. The bill also has been amended to require the collection of DNA from illegal aliens who are arrested in Oklahoma and then are to be deported.

The more criminals whose DNA profiles are included in the database, the more crimes will be solved. That is not just my belief; it a strong belief shared by many in law enforcement.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) is charged with collecting DNA profiles and entering them into the Combined DNA Index System – the “CODIS” mentioned almost every week on the “CSI” television shows.

As we were working to gather the votes to pass the bill, OSBI weighed on how important the new law would be. “The expansion of the DNA database means more crimes will be solved and will also prevent crime in the future,” said Jessica Brown, OSBI Public Information Officer.

The bill was passed and signed into law by the governor last month. Just as fingerprints revolutionized criminal investigations in the early 20th century, so has DNA evidence today. The more criminals in the database, the more crimes will be solved – and prevented – making Oklahoma an even safer state for our families.

Thanks again for reading this week’s “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.

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