Use of Genealogy DNA in an Iowa Cold Case Conviction Was Unconstitutional, According to the Defense Attorney’s Claims

The state’s use of genetic testing to convict an Iowa man in a 40-year-old cold case was unconstitutional, according to a motion filed in Linn County court.

Jerry Lynn Burns, 66, was found guilty in February of first-degree murder in the 1979 stabbing death of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids. While waiting to receive the mandatory life sentence that comes with a conviction on that charge, Burns’ attorney has asked the court to give the Manchester man a new trial.

“Those were issues that we raised earlier and we wanted to reurge them in hopes that the court reexamines them,” Leon Spies, Burns’ attorney, told the Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

Spies wrote that the jury’s verdict was “contrary” to the weight of evidence, and his client’s constitutional rights were violated by the admission of his statements to investigators the day of his arrest and the use of his and his family’s DNA. The state’s search and seizure of Burns’ and Burns’ family members’ DNA is a violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments, according to the motion, and the court erred by not suppressing that evidence.

Again, this is a motion filed by a defense attorney seeking a new trial, not a finalized legal finding by the court.

You can read a lot more in an article by Tyler J. Davis in the Des Moines Register website at: https://bit.ly/2YGOY7m.

3 Comments

Michelle Martinko was my high school classmate, so I followed this case closely. I’m glad Michelle’s killer was finally found and convicted. I fail to see how prosecutors’ use of publicly available DNA evidence violated Burns’ constitutional rights, but I guess that will be up to the appeals courts to decide. People should definitely think hard before they contribute their DNA data to genetic genealogy databases, and of course most of these websites now require people to opt in to sharing their data with law enforcement agencies.

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There is no real difference between fingerprints and DNA as usable evidence, period. It was left at the crime scene. If a third party is horrified that their DNA was used to find, prosecute and convict a serial killer, one wonders what is wrong them them. My question to them would be “what heinous crime have YOU done?”…that you worry so much that you left a precise sample that may have been collected by the authorities at another crime scene. There is nothing to see here but complete ignorance of the subject. My DNA is in all main databases and essentially open for anyone to see. Should authorities need my help, I’d help with the genealogical work.

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I would think of more concern quite frankly would be the plummeting global birthrate which will ensure there is LESS DNA being left for another generation making all other arguments pretty pointless in the end.

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