NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York state commission subcommittee won accolades from the Queens District Attorney’s office, and consternation from the Legal Aid Society, after endorsing the use of familial DNA testing in criminal cases.

Familial DNA searches are already being used in almost a dozen other states. They can be used to generate fresh leads for cold cases, by finding relatives of unknown rapists and killers and then connecting the dots from there.

In a statement, the office of Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said the DNA Subcommittee of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science had made the right move in its unanimous decision to approve the practice.

The DA’s office called it “an important step forward in identifying the guilty, excluding the innocent and bringing closure to the families of victims of unsolved homicides. While the journey for justice for those families is not yet complete, this is an important milestone.”

But the Legal Aid Society called the decision “reckless” and “a step in the wrong direction that has potential dire consequences for every resident of this state.”

“The method is still largely inconclusive and begs a whole host of concerns including constitutionality, accuracy and efficacy, privacy, among many others,” the Legal Aid Society said in a statement. “Knee jerk policy making to serve a political purpose is a disservice to all New Yorkers. We encourage the full commission to make a more deliberative decision and vote no when it takes up this matter next month.”

The family of jogger Karina Vetrano had called for New York state to approve familial DNA testing as they awaited an arrest in her case for more than six months.

Vetrano was strangled when she went for a run alone in Spring Creek Park on Aug. 2 of last year. Her parents, Phil and Cathy Vetrano, had asked the state to allow familial DNA testing, which allows investigators to see if a suspect’s relative is in the DNA system, potentially leading them to the killer.

Chanel Lewis, 20, of East New York, Brooklyn, was charged with Vetrano’s murder in February.


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