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Brooklyn Assemblyman Joseph Lentol Sees Deal For DNA Databank

DNA lab. (Credit:CBS2)

DNA lab. (Credit:CBS2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The chief Assembly sponsor of legislation to double New York’s DNA database with genetic information from all felony and penal misdemeanor offenders says he expects a compromise to pass.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat, says he thinks the deal is a go, though details are being worked out. He says Tuesday it would broaden defense access to the database but drop provisions on police interrogations and witness identification.

Lentol’s Assembly-backed bill would have mandated videotaped interrogations and double-blind photo arrays. He says it’s possible those measures will be addressed separately, though he doesn’t like that approach.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs the Republican-controlled Senate’s bill to simply expand the database, but indicated willingness to discuss DNA-related modifications.

Lentol wants more defense access to DNA data to help prevent wrongful convictions.

So far the criteria for New York’s database has been increased four times since 1999. It began tracking only violent criminals, but now roughly half of the people arrested in New York get cheek-swabbed and receive a coded number in the computer. The information is compared to existing crime scene evidence and has been used to close hundreds of criminal cases.

Critics have been skeptial of the plan, with many expressing concerns over civil liberties and potential fruad within the system.

“My worst fear is that innocent people will go to jail because of mistakes made in an overburdened system,” said Jeremy Gruber of the Council for Responsible Genetics.

“Proposals like this make us feel like we’re living in a CSI fantasy,” said Donna Lieberman, a spokesperson for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Proponents however, have called the database an asset.

“It’s been our experience when the database has been increased, it’s been very useful in identifying serious criminals,” said Bob Adamo, director of the Westchester County Crime Lab.

Suffolk County district attorney Thomas Spota as well as all five district attorneys in New York City have said they support the plan.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)