Supreme Court To Review Local DNA Case

SALISBURY — U.S. Supreme Court justices late last week announced they will take up a potential landmark Maryland DNA testing law rooted in a Salisbury rape case dating back to 2003.

In July 2010, Alonzo Jay King, Jr., now 29, was found guilty of first-degree rape for an unsolved 2003 during which he allegedly broke down the door of a residence in Salisbury armed with a gun and wearing a mask over his face and sexually assaulted a 52-year-old female victim. In September 2010, King was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but quickly appealed the conviction based on an alleged DNA sample collection that connected him to the 2003 rape in Salisbury.

In 2009, King was arrested after photographic and fingerprint evidence identified him as a suspect in an unrelated assault case. Under Maryland’s relatively new law, a DNA sample was taken and entered into the state DNA database and that DNA sample ultimately connected King to the unsolved 2003 rape case. King appealed his conviction in the rape case, arguing the DNA sample collection violated his constitutional right against unreasonable searches.

In April, the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed the DNA sample taken from King following his assault arrest in 2009 and used to gain a conviction in the 2003 rape case was unconstitutional and remanded King’s case back to Wicomico County Circuit Court for a new trial. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Maryland Court of Appeals decision on DNA testing, which has become an invaluable tool for law enforcement agencies across the state including the Lower Shore.

In July, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts issued a temporary stay on the appeals’ court decision on DNA testing, essentially allowing state law enforcement agencies to continue the practice, until the highest court in the country can take a closer look at the issue. Last Friday, the Supreme Court announced it would undertake a thorough review of the use of DNA for possible matches to other crimes, which could have broad implications in Maryland and across the country. In Maryland, DNA testing advocates applauded the high court’s decision to review the landmark King v. Maryland case.

“We are pleased by the decision and look forward to the opportunity to defend this important crime-fighting tool before the nation’s highest court,” said Gansler in a statement this week. “With Chief Justice Roberts’ stay still in place, Maryland’s DNA database remains in operation, helping law enforcement identify and bring to justice violent perpetrators in some of our state’s most gruesome unsolved cases.”