Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Capture of Serial Killer Arohn Kee

DNA Tide

The prosecution of Arohn Kee was a turning point in New York for the use of DNA evidence. Kee's defense team sought to have the seizure of his DNA declared illegal. But Judge Sudolnick upheld the use of the evidence, even if it had been obtained through police skullduggery when Kee was still just a suspect.

George Goltzer, Kee's attorney, told the press after his conviction, "The public needs to be aware that this court found that police officers may follow you around and without any warning or a judge's approval take your bodily fluids.'' But the Kee case became an example of the urgent need for a DNA database. Had Kee's DNA profile been on file from his 1990 robbery arrest, some of his victims surely would have been spared by an earlier apprehension.

By the time Kee was sentenced, legislators in New York and many other states had mandated DNA testing for those arrested in connection with violent crimes. Since then, testing has been expanded to include most felony arrests, both violent and nonviolent, and some jurisdictions have begun to test those arrested for misdemeanors.

Most DNA headlines today concern exonerations, not successful prosecutions, and that was a subplot in the Kee story. Two men were falsely implicated in the Kee rapes when victims picked them out of police line-ups. One was a known sex offender who had been recently paroled. The other was seen near the scene of a rape just before and just after it happened. Curiously, he had changed clothing in between. The men likely would have faced prosecution had DNA evidence not implicated Arohn Kee for the crimes they were incorrectly suspected of committing.

Linda Fairstein, a longtime Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor who left that field to become a novelist, said the Kee case proved DNA's value from both a prosecution and defense point of view. "There's no question that any one of our experienced sex crimes prosecutors could have convicted (either) man," she told reporters. "That's very frightening."

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