The trial of alleged serial killer Lonnie David Franklin, known in the media as The Grim Sleeper, is scheduled to begin in Los Angeles in July. Franklin will be the first person brought to trial on the basis of Familial DNA evidence in the U.S. There are only two states that even have a policy regarding its use, California and Colorado.
The Grim Sleeper was caught because his son’s DNA was the closest match to DNA samples collected at the crime scenes in the database. Investigating Franklin’s son led them to investigate Lonnie David Franklin. But there was no direct DNA linking him to the crime scene until a matching DNA sample was obtained after his arrest.
Many legal analysts believe Familial DNA searches violate Fourth Amendment rights which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures. The courts may ultimately rule that searching among Familial DNA databases for partial matches would constitutionally be the same as the use of a generalized warrant to search someone’s house when there is no prior reason to suspect the person of wrongdoing, which citizens are constitutionally protected from.
I first heard about the use of Familial DNA working as a 911 operator in 2006. It came up in a conversation with officers working a case. I thought at the time it would make an interesting premise for a book. I began writing The Death of Anyone three years after leaving the department. I had just finished editing a first draft in the summer 2010 when news of The Grim Sleeper’s capture in Los Angeles was released. I read with interest all the information pouring out of L.A. regarding the investigation and the admissibility issues confronting prosecutors.
These are the same issues confronting Detroit Homicide Detective Bonnie Benham in The Death of Anyone. Bonnie has been transferred from narcotics to homicide and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims. But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer. Homicide Detective Neil Jensen understands Bonnie’s frailty and the personal lives of the two detectives become inseparable as they track this killer of children.
Links to the book:
About the author:
DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Lunch Ticket, Zodiac Review, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, Alpha Wolves, The Death of Anyone and The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. His website: www.magicmasterminds.com/djswykert. He is a wolf expert.
Thanks for stopping by, David. Let’s give him a perilous welcome! Did you learn something new about DNA? I know I did! You know comments are entered into my monthly drawing for an AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value). Winner is announced the first blog post of the new month–wait, that’s this post! See new winner below/