Martinez pushed to expand DNA collections to all people arrested on suspicion of felonies in New Mexico. The measure is known as Katie's Law for a case that Martinez personally prosecuted when she was district attorney of Dona Ana County.
The U.S. Supreme Court this month agreed to hear the case of Maryland vs. King. It has similarities to what happened in New Mexico in the case of the late Katie Sepich..
Maryland vs. King involves the arrest in 2009 of Alonzo Jay King Jr. on suspicion of first-degree assault..
State law required King to provide police with a DNA sample prior to conviction. The sample connected him to an unsolved rape that was committed at gunpoint in 2003..
The state of Maryland prosecuted and convicted King for the rape. But the Maryland Court of Appeals - the state's highest court - overturned King's conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court has since intervened. King's attorneys said his Fourth Amendment rights to protection from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated..
Similar arguments have been made without success in federal appeals courts and in the Virginia Supreme Court. Now the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of whether pre-conviction DNA collections are constitutional, perhaps settling the question..
In New Mexico, the man who raped and murdered Katie Sepich in 2003 was not pinpointed for those crimes for three years.
This occurred after he provided a DNA sample because of his conviction for unrelated felonies..
In those days, New Mexico mandated DNA samples only after someone was convicted of a felony. With Katie's Law, DNA collections are required upon arrest in felony cases across New Mexico..
"As the prosecutor of Katie Sepich's murderer, I saw first-hand the value of DNA collection," Martinez said. "When we collect DNA from those who commit felony crimes, we identify killers and rapists who have yet to be caught, and in doing so, we prevent other crimes from occurring.".
She said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling could affect 25 states that have similar versions of Katie's Law..
Katie Sepich's mother, Jayann Sepich of Carlsbad, said in an interview she was happy that the Maryland case was accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. If the law is upheld, it will make it easier to approve Katie's Law in states that do not have it, she said..
"I'm very optimistic. I'm excited" Jayann Sepich said of the law's potential expansion..
Since the inception of Katie's Law in New Mexico in 2007, DNA collection has matched criminals to 380 cases, according to Martinez's administration. Jayann Sepich said it is a matter of using science to solve crimes..
"We know for certain that it's no more a violation of privacy than a fingerprint," she said..
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at email@example.com or 505-820-6898.