Proponents of Katie's Law glad Supreme Court is hearing Maryland case

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 11:31pm

New Mexico's Katie's Law and similar laws in 24 other states could be in jeopardy when the United States Supreme Court reviews a Maryland law next year.

The Surpeme Court will review a case where a man in Maryland was convicted of a 2003 rape with assistance of DNA collected three years ago on an unrelated assault charge.

Opponents of the law argue taking DNA samples violates privacy rights and constitutes unlawful search and seizure.

In New Mexico Katie's Law is one of the strictest in the country requiring DNA samples when a suspect is booked and has already helped connect suspects to 380 cases in the state since 2007.

The law is named after Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University student, who was raped and murdered, then had her body burned in August of 2003.

"In our daughter's case it was DNA that finally solved it," said Jayann Sepich, Katie's mother. "It would have never been solved without DNA, there were no fingerprints left whatsoever and they didn't have any other clues for evidence."

The only evidence was skin underneath Katie's fingernails that matched DNA of Gabriel Avila.    

Before Katie's law was enacted, Avila was arrested for aggravated burglary three months after killing Katie.

"He wasn't identified then," Sepich said. "He was identified when he was convicted and incarcerated and that was actually three years and four months after she was killed."

Avila had DNA collected from him while serving time for the aggravated burglary conviction and confessed to killing Katie.

"Justice brings healing and we saw that in our family," Sepich said. "We saw what a difference it made for us when we found out not only who killed our daughter but knew that he couldn't harm anyone else and that she was getting justice."

Sepich and her husband have been working to pass Katie's Law  or similar laws state by state with the help of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez who prosecuted Katie's case.

Governor Martinez will be submitting written documents asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Maryland law.    

Sepich said the law not only helps solve crimes sooner, but  helps save lives and helps prevent what happened to Katie from happening to anyone else.          

"I think there are young women out there whose lives have been saved already by this law and so many more that can be saved if we can get this law in every state," Sepich said.

Sepich said she feels confident the Supreme Court will uphold the law and would help encourage other states to enact similar laws.

"I think there are young women out there who's lives have been saved already by this law and so many more that can be saved if we can get this law in every state." 

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