Tulsa Police's DNA dilemma

Thursday, April 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa's sex crimes detectives are in a DNA dilemma. They have a suspect in a rape case, a man who recently served time in an Oklahoma prison for a crime that by law requires his DNA sample be taken.

But when detectives asked for that sample so they could see if the suspect is guilty, they were told no. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright investigates why. DNA is a crime fighting wonder, just ask Alvin McGhee. DNA proved he didn't commit a Tulsa rape after he'd years in prison. Oklahoma has required people convicted of violent crimes since 1999, to give DNA samples when they go into prison, like most states.

Those samples are then put into a national database called CODIS, and police around the country compare those samples with unsolved cases. That process recently solved a 20-year-old Tulsa murder. Turns out the man who killed Geraldine Martin was sitting in a California prison. So, you'd think getting a sample to solve a Tulsa rape case would be a snap, but it's anything but. Sgt Gary Stansill, Sex Crimes; "We found out from OSBI that we can't get the sample for a year."

A year? That's because OSBI is not allowed to turn the sample over to Tulsa Police to test it in their lab, which would take only a few days. The law says OSBI must test it and put it in the database, then, Tulsa's detectives can compare it. So, why does that take a year? Because all those DNA swabs taken from all the prisoners take time and money to analyze and put into the database and right now there are 12,000 untested swabs sitting in the basement at OSBI which is about a year's backlog, Tulsa's rape suspect happens to be one of them.

Virginia spends a ton of money to get and test DNA from everyone who's arrested, no matter how minor and consequently, solves a ton of unsolved cases. Tulsa Police wish we'd do that here, but the reality is without more money, Oklahoma's backlog would only get worse. Gary Stansill: "15 years ago, I wouldn't have been frustrated because we didn't have the technology. But, now I know we have the technology and we just can't get the ball rolling fast enough to solve these crimes."

So, crimes, like the rape, go unsolved and there's nothing Tulsa Police or the victim can do about it. Tulsa’s sex crimes detectives just got another blow to their case. It turns out the prison never took the suspect's DNA, as required by law.

So, detectives won't get a sample in a year, they won't get it ever, unless they get enough evidence to get it through a search warrant.