ILNews

DNA swab of juvenile is not fundamental error

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found police acted improperly in swabbing a teen’s penis to obtain DNA evidence and that the trial court erred in admitting this test into evidence, but that the error was harmless.

The appellate judges affirmed Duane Lee’s 13 convictions, which included Class B felony rape and six counts of criminal deviate conduct as Class A felonies. Lee and two other men committed a home invasion, robbery and rape of the resident, and Lee fled from police. He was 17 years old.

Police called Lee’s mother to consent to a DNA swab of Lee’s mouth, hands and penis. She signed the juvenile waiver without meaningfully consulting Lee. Lee only challenges on appeal the admittance of the evidence from the penile swab, which he did not object to at trial.

Lee argued that the trial court fundamentally erred in allowing the DNA test into evidence because the state didn’t prove it had the legal authority to swab his penis. Since he didn’t object at trial, the state didn’t have to explain its decision then. The state now argues that the juvenile waiver statute doesn’t apply because exigent circumstances required an attempt to collect the victim’s DNA from Lee before any evidence was destroyed. But the only support for the argument that the state was concerned about Lee destroying evidence was that the police detective interrogating Lee would not let Lee wash his hands after going to the bathroom.

In addition, if the detective actually believed the evidence was about to be destroyed and exigent circumstances existed, there wasn’t any reason to get Lee’s mother’s consent, noted Chief Judge Margret Robb in Duane Lee v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1105-CR-225.

But this error in obtaining and admitting the evidence at trial does not rise to the level of fundamental error. There was other significant evidence to support Lee’s convictions, including the victim’s testimony and Lee’s DNA found on a ski mask and the victim’s mouth.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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