Today, the US Supreme Court refused to review a case whose prosecution rested on DNA evidence swabbed from an interrogation chair, Ars Technica reports. Glenn Raynor petitioned the Supreme Court to review his 2009 conviction for rape on the grounds that his DNA was collected without his knowledge or consent.
Collecting "inadvertently shed" DNA
After he was convicted in a county court, Raynor took the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which upheld the conviction last spring in a 4-3 decision. Raynor then went to the Supreme Court, asking them to review Raynor v. State of Maryland to determine if police can legally collect "inadvertently shed" DNA and use it as evidence.
When the conviction was first challenged, Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals told The Baltimore Sun, "The police would have analyzed the fingerprints to reveal their identifying characteristics and compared them to any fingerprint evidence collected at the victim's home," she wrote. "The only distinction that reasonably can be drawn is that the DNA test results in the present case directly linked Petitioner not merely to the crime scene but also directly and with certainty to the rape of the victim."
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that police could take DNA from people arrested for serious crimes. Raynor was not under arrest when the police collected his DNA. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Raynor agreed to go in for questioning during the investigation, and police collected his DNA from his chair without his knowledge. The EFF claims that by refusing to hear this case, the Supreme Court is allowing for the creation of a nationwide database culled together from randomly sourced DNA.
You're shedding DNA right now
According to Ars Technica, Raynor’s petition of the 2014 decision said, "The Majority’s approval of such police procedure means, in essence, that a person desiring to keep her DNA profile private must conduct her public affairs in a hermetically sealed hazmat suit." That sounds a little dramatic. It’s unlikely cops will be swabbing Chipotle chairs for evidence anytime soon, but now it looks like they probably could.