Familial DNA bill filed in Massachusetts

BOSTON — On Beacon Hill, lawmakers will soon be considering new legislation that could expand the use of DNA technology in criminal investigations.

Forensic DNA technology has been a game-changer for criminal law enforcement.

And now that same technology is changing the rules again, through the use of familial DNA.

That’s the process of finding a DNA match to a suspect’s relative, and then using traditional police work to locate the suspect.

Familial DNA was most famously used recently to make an arrest in the Golden State Killer case.

“This is a tool for unresolved cases using science. It helps law enforcement,” Heather Bish, a member of the Massachusetts Missing Persons Task Force told me.

Heather is the sister of murder victim Molly Bish, and she is working on legislation to standardize the use of familial DNA in Massachusetts.

“It really is just a standard procedure that’s already being used in Massachusetts, but it allows victim’s families have some hope that there is another tool that could find the person that is responsible,” Bish said.

But more than that, the bill standardizes, for all Massachusetts District Attorneys, the way familial DNA is used, once it’s gathered.

Bish says she is concerned, without a set procedure, cases could be lost in court.

In 21 years, there’s never been an arrest in Molly Bish’s case.

“Could you imagine, in my case, if someone had given DNA  to exonerate themselves in Molly’s case and the DA was using it to compare with other crimes in other counties? That is a privacy issue,” Bish said.

“We certainly we want to catch the bad guys, but we want to do it in a way that is a process, a standard, protocol-driven so it’s not getting all this wiggle room for a disastrous outcome, like a trial being messed up from it,” Bish added.

If the bill becomes law, it is hoped the guidelines will ensure that familial DNA will be available to investigators across the state.