RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -
Some lawmakers want to expand the state's DNA databank to include people convicted of serious misdemeanors. And they have people who know about tragedy all to well backing them up, including Morgan Harrington's mother.
The mother of the murdered Virginia Tech student is once again trying to make sure no other family suffers like she did. "The only thing I can change is respond as creatively and thoroughly as I can and make sure that her life was not taken in vain," Gil Harrington said.
Now she's supporting a set of bills that would expand the state's DNA data bank to include people convicted of misdemeanors.
The Albemarle County sheriff says it would be another tool to help law enforcement, but the ACLU has concerns: "What we're doing in Virginia like most states are laying back waiting for the criminal to get better and much more violent before we take the DNA let's take it on the front end and save victims," Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding said.
"We're also concerned that the crimes specified in these particular bills disproportionately impact low income and minority people who are vastly over represented in the criminal justice system," ACLU's Rob Poggenklass said.
Law enforcement cites the case against Jesse Matthew. He has been linked to a 2005 rape in Fairfax. And there is now a forensic link between Morgan Harrington's case and the murder of UVA student Hannah Graham. But the sheriff says Matthew was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010. The sheriff says If Matthew's DNA had been stored in a database, he could have been connected to the Fairfax rape long before the Hannah Graham case. "Trying to save other families from the grief that top tier crimes cause and I think this is one where we need to do that," says Harrington.
But the ACLU cites other concerns. "Having partial matches because not every DNA match is going to be an absolute 100-percent match which could lead to the possibility of false conviction," Poggenklass said.
The group says more physical evidence should be collected at crime scenes instead of expanding the database.
The sheriff says if people who are convicted of the crimes are forced to pay for the DNA testing it would financially support the expansion. Right now DNA is only taken from people convicted of felonies.