The Baltimore Sun reports on a case in Maryland, Williamson v. State (pdf), concerning police collection of DNA evidence from a suspect’s trash.
When Anne Arundel County police Detective Tracy Morgan identified a suspect in the brutal rape of a Russian teenager visiting on an exchange program, she pulled a trick familiar to anyone who watches police dramas on TV.
She had the man arrested on an old warrant, put him in a cell and served him a McDonald’s meal. He ate and threw the trash on the floor. Morgan picked up the discarded cup, sent it for testing and matched the DNA found on the edge to evidence recovered from the victim.
Kelroy Williamson was found guilty of rape in 2008 and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. On Thursday, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and endorsed the police ruse, the subsequent testing of the genetic material and the entry of the DNA into a database used to help close unsolved cases. […]
Trickery has always been an accepted police tactic.
Detectives are allowed to lie while interrogating suspects, and Thursday’s ruling noted that courts have allowed DNA evidence taken from hair discarded during a convict’s haircut, even though it was the FBI that ordered the haircut to obtain a sample. […]
But Williamson’s attorney argued that just because Williamson abandoned the cup didn’t mean he also abandoned privacy rights to his own genetic material. And while collecting the DNA might be legal, the lawyer argued that taking the extra and technologically complicated stop of breaking it down required a warrant.