27
Feb
13

Supreme Court Seems Conflicted Over DNA Sampling

“I think this is perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this Court has heard in decades.” Justice Samuel Alito said from the bench. “This is what is at stake: Lots of murders, lots of rapes that can be — that can be solved using this new technology that involves a very minimal intrusion on personal privacy. But why isn’t this [police DNA sampling] the fingerprinting of the twenty-first century?”

Alito is the Supreme Court’s leading criminal-procedure hawk. But equally important, Alito is the Court’s leading futurist. Far more than any of his colleagues, he sees the Court’s role as peering into the future implications of changes in technology, whether on video games and the First Amendment, the Internet and privacy, or global-positioning systems and police surveillance. Usually he doesn’t like what he sees on the horizon; indeed, he is the closest thing the Court has to Suzanne Collins, dystopian author of the Hunger Games trilogy. But DNA sampling, and nationwide databases, apparently hold the rare promise of a brighter tomorrow.

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