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'DNA bill' passes Oklahoma house

Posted at 9:10 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 23:25:11-05

After being defeated on the Oklahoma house floor, a bill that would require DNA samples of felony arrestees got a surprise second vote and passed the chamber this week.

House Bill 2275 is similar to DNA collection laws in more than two dozen other states. It's come up in several versions over many Oklahoma legislative sessions, but this is the first time it's passed the house.

Dr. Maggie Zingman's daughter Brittany Phillips was raped and murdered in Tulsa 11 years ago when she was just 18. Since then, Zingman has traveled the country looking for tips to find her daughter's killer. Her journey also took her to the state legislature lobbying for the DNA collection law.

"For the last two weeks, I've been just pounding the floors of the Capitol and trying to talk to lawmakers," she said.

Her efforts seem to have paid off. Enough lawmakers changed their votes to pass the bill through the chamber for the first time.

"I walked myself down the halls of the Capitol, through that long tunnel and get out to my car and just let off a scream because we have not been this far," she said.

The bill's progress is a relief to her, though it must still clear the senate and get Governor Mary Fallin's signature if it is to become law. 

It's a fight Zingman is willing to take on. She said part of her mind still goes back to the night her daughter died.

"I worry that night she was murdered. Every once in a while, I wonder was she going 'Mommy, Mommy, Mommy. Because I couldn't do anything for her," she said.

However, HB 2275 is not without controversy. Opponents of the law, including the ACLU, say it's a violation of privacy to take DNA before conviction.
 
The current draft of the law calls for the records to be automatically deleted if there's not a conviction, yet some privacy advocates fear the cataloging process will leave people unfairly exposed. The United States Supreme Court recently upheld this type of DNA collection as reasonable.
 
Zingman has already changed the minds of some lawmakers.
 
"I refuse to let her killer kill me and that's also part of my motivation," she said. "I'll keep searching for Brittany's killer till I can't anymore, because he's probably killing other people."
 
Read more about HB2275 here.