The Norman Transcript

Editorials

June 11, 2013

Ruling assures access to DNA

NORMAN — Do you trust government?

Well, you better, thanks to a new U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives law enforcement — and ultimately others in government — the ability to access sweeping new information about individuals.

It comes courtesy of a high court decision that upholds the constitutionality of police procedures in states where DNA samples are collected from all people arrested for serious crimes. The fact these individuals are supposedly innocent until proven guilty, and the fact the DNA may not be needed in the case at hand, is apparently beside the point.

We suspect other states — including Pennsylvania — now will be inclined to adopt this practice.

The court reached its DNA ruling in one of its now-famous 5-4 decisions. But this time, there was an unusual split, with liberal Justice Stephen Breyer joining most of the court’s conservatives in supporting the decision. But conservative Justice Antonin Scalia sided with the minority, arguing, “Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

The majority opinion in the case was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the court’s swing vote.

Kennedy minimized any civil liberties concerns about the decision, writing, “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Except that Kennedy’s dead wrong. And here’s why.

Fingerprints and photographs serve very limited purposes in terms of identifying individuals. They tell government nothing else about us.

But DNA tells everything about us. It is what we are. To dismiss the taking of DNA samples as nothing more than another identification technique ignores a host of disturbing ramifications.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Editorials
  • Dancing forward

    The official motto for Mike Fowler’s chairmanship of the Norman Chamber of Commerce is “Moving Norman Forward.” But after Thursday night’s annual banquet, the sub-theme should be, “Let’s Dance, Norman.” More than 500 chamber members and ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Local control or not?

    Oklahoma lawmakers are a fickle bunch when it comes to issues of local control. Sometimes they want it and other times they do not....

    April 19, 2014

  • There’s no need to fix system that’s working

    Lawmaker attempts to alter the way judges are selected are being challenged by the state’s lawyers. More than 1,800 signatures on a state bar association petition urging a “no” vote on Senate Joint Resolution 21 have been gathered in just ...

    April 18, 2014

  • On the side of openness

    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has been criticized for failing to release emails and other information sought by press outlets who believe it was covered under the state’s Open Records Act. Now, Fallin is coming down on the side of keeping the ...

    April 18, 2014

  • A raise for troopers, but what about others?

    Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers could see an increase in their paychecks during the state’s next fiscal year, which begins in July....

    April 17, 2014

  • Top honors for NPS

    Top honors keep rolling in for both of Norman’s high schools. The district learned this past week that Norman High School and Norman North High School have been recognized as two of the most rigorous high schools in the country and in the ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Wind power bursting

    There are a few wind generators dotting the Norman skyline, but western and northwestern Oklahoma makes up for the deficit here. An industry group this week said Oklahoma ranks fourth nationally in the amount of wind-generated ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Protect your home from wildfires

    To most people, fuel is what you put into your gas tank. To firefighters, it means something altogether different. To people who make a living putting out fires, fuel is that material that feeds wildfires — and there is an abundance of it ...

    April 12, 2014

  • Let’s toast: Main Street bridge nearly complete

    It was January 2013 when crews began knocking down the Main Street bridge over Interstate 35. The timeline on completion has always been this May. If everything comes together and the weather holds for the next few days, the overpass and ...

    April 11, 2014

  • Yes to Capitol and museum

    Two major spending bills have emerged from the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee headed by Norman Rep. Scott Martin. Both are up for passage in the full House of Representatives. We believe both deserve passage....

    April 11, 2014