NorCal Rapist suspect’s lawyers seek access to Sacramento DA’s secret DNA database files

The defense in the NorCal Rapist case is asking a judge for access to prosecutors’ records of the groundbreaking DNA investigative tactics that led to his arrest and, earlier, to the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer.

Lawyers for accused serial rapist Roy Waller argued Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court that they have received very little of the DNA evidence that led to the arrest of Waller last year, and that they have a right to know exactly how prosecutors pieced together the clues that led them to Waller.

“It does us no good if we can’t go and look at that work,” veteran DNA counsel Guy Leighton told Judge Laurie Earl.

But prosecutors from Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office, where the innovative technique was born during the decades-long hunt for a Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist suspect, argue that their techniques – which they have dubbed “investigative genetic genealogy,” or IGG – have solved numerous crimes and that there is no obligation to hand over such material.

“This is not information we intend to put on at trial,” prosecutor Chris Ore said, adding that the evidence ultimately used to arrest Waller already has been provided to lead attorney Joseph Farina and his team.

That evidence stems from DNA prosecutors obtained from a soda straw and another item that matched DNA left behind at rape scenes from 1991 through 2006 in six Northern California counties: Sacramento, Butte, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo.

But it does not include evidence investigators gleaned from genealogical databases.

The DA’s Office fed DNA from the crime scenes into such sites, and when it found a person whose DNA results were similar, it built out a “family tree” from that person. It then began looking for a relative who fit the right age and who lived in the area where the rapes occurred, the same process that led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer suspect.

Prosecutors want to keep all that evidence to themselves – refusing to divulge even which databases they used – and liken it to a cop getting a tip from someone whispering, “Hey, you should take a look at this guy.”

Instead, they argue, the evidence they will use at trial are the DNA samples they obtained secretly while Waller was under surveillance and the DNA swab they took after his arrest – samples they say match that left at crime scenes. The odds of finding a Caucasian person whose DNA matches the crime scene DNA are roughly one in 360 quadrillion, Ore said.

The judge put off a decision Wednesday, choosing to hold a closed hearing with prosecutors to go over the evidence the defense is seeking. Earl scheduled another hearing over the matter for Friday afternoon.

Defense DNA counsel Erica Graves argued that Waller’s attorneys should be able to find out who uploaded their DNA to databases that ultimately was linked to Waller’s, which she called “the sole evidence that led to Mr. Waller’s arrest.”

“We want a complete record and a chance to review all of the evidence that is being used against Mr. Waller,” she said.

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Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of issues, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.