In a worrisome trend, a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (OPD) has claimed that the police used blood samples from new-born babies to fund DNA samples and probe crimes committed more than 25 years ago.
The OPD officials learned that the State Police has successfully subpoenaed a newborn blood sample who is now approximately nine years old.
“The reason the State Police subpoenaed the sample was so that it could perform a DNA analysis on the sample and tie the child’s father, who became OPD’s client, to a crime that was committed in 1996,” the lawsuit read.
By serving a subpoena upon the Newborn Screening Laboratory, the State Police allegedly sidestepped its constitutional obligation to develop probable cause and obtain a warrant “so that it could obtain a buccal swab from OPD’s client to perform an analysis of his DNA”.
The suspect then became a client of the OPD, which alerted the office to the techniques used to identify the man.
Every baby born in New Jersey is required by law to be tested for 60 disorders within 48 hours of birth. Through a simple needle prick to the heel, hospitals, medical facilities, and health care providers collect blood from newborns.
Those blood spot samples are later tested by the Newborn Screening Laboratory, which operated by defendants New Jersey Department of Health, Public Health and Environmental Laboratories.
“These blood spot samples are taken without informed consent by the newborn’s parents or guardians, and, upon information and belief, the samples are stored by Defendants for more than 20 years,” the lawsuit alleged.
In early 2022, OPD learned that at least one law enforcement agency has obtained newborn blood spot samples from the Newborn Screening Laboratory to perform a DNA analysis on the sample as part of a criminal investigation.
The State Police had re-opened an investigation into a “cold case” of sexual assault that had occurred in 1996 and had genetically narrowed the suspects to one of three brothers and their male offspring.
“Because there was not probable cause to obtain search warrants for buccal swabs from those suspects, the State Police instead served a subpoena upon the Newborn Screening Laboratory in or about August 2021 to obtain residual dried blood spot samples that had been collected from a male newborn in or about June 2012,” read the lawsuit.
To ascertain which family member was the suspect, the State Police sought the blood spot sample that was taken from an approximately nine-year-old child when he was a newborn to compare it to the DNA it had collected at the crime scene in 1996.
The lawsuit, filed jointly by the OPD and the non-profit organisation New Jersey Monitor, now seeks to force the state of New Jersey to disclose information on the full extent of the practice.