ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A federal version of
New Mexico's Katie's Law passed with overwhelming support from congress Friday, but before the president can even sign it into law the nation's highest court is getting ready to determine if its constitutional.
legality is being challenged after a Maryland criminal says the justice system violated his civil rights, but what could that mean for the nearly 400 criminals convicted under Katie's Law here in New Mexico?
Alonzo King Jr was arrested in Maryland in 2009 for assault. He was never convicted in that case, but investigators swabbed his mouth, took his DNA and uploaded it into a national data base. That move linked him to a 2003 rape case for which he was later charged and convicted.
King's lawyers say police had no right to take their client's DNA before he was convicted of any crime. NM Governor Susana Martinez disagrees.
"Simply because they have gotten away with it this far, does not mean they get away with it for the rest of their lives," she said.
Governor Martinez was the prosecutor in Katie Sepich's case.
Sepich was walking home from a party when she was raped and killed outside her Las Cruces home. Her killer Gabriel Avila was caught three years later, only after his DNA was pulled because he was convicted of another crime.
The governor says Avila should have been caught right away. "We could have saved over $300,000 had this person who was arrested originally before killing Katie been uploaded in this national data base."
Now the legality of that process is in question. The Supreme Court will have to answer this question: Is it okay to pull DNA from someone who's been arrested but not convicted? And if the nation's highest court says no, what does that mean for Katie's Law?
Governor Martinez believes New Mexico's law should stand because DNA is only taken when a judge rules there's enough evidence for an arrest, a process she said is similar to collecting a suspect's personal information.
"They take fingerprints, a photograph, height, weight, eye color, hair color and photograph every single tattoo on that individual," explained Governor Martinez.
Governor Martinez says she's also encouraged the nation's highest court will rule in favor of Katie's Law because congress voted unanimously to fund the DNA collection programs in all 50 states.
Alonzo King Jr. case also challenges the use of his fingerprints. He claims that is also a violation of his civil rights.
Twenty five other states have legislation similar to Katie's Law. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of King, their laws could be in jeopardy.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.