Court Allows Use of Torture to Get DNA


Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza has ruled that police may use thumbscrews to extract DNA from an unwilling prisoner. The issue came up in the case of Ryan S. Smith, accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend so she could take him to the home of an acquaintance, and of shooting said acquaintance in the groin. Having submitted a DNA sample to the police previously, which was subsequently spoiled, Smith thought better of supplying another when the court ordered it, and resisted until tortured with thumbscrews. “Our case is mostly DNA,” explained the Deputy District Attorney, who authorized the use of “minimal force” to obtain the new sample, but was not informed of the decision to use thumbscrews (which were not mentioned in the police report, either, and only came to light with Smith’s protest and this hearing). Smith’s defense attorney thought the new sample would be invalidated, but the judge surprised him, ruling that the second sample could be obtained by force so long as it were not applied “maliciously, or to an excessive extent, or with resulting injury.” The usual remedy is keeping the suspect jailed until he or she consents. (Correction: the instrument of torture used to extract the sample was not thumbscrews, but a taser.)