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DragonFly Tales

When to Fold ‘em…

I am a perseverant person, which makes it hard to know when to quit. Quitting, isn’t a bad thing, I’ve learned in adulthood. I remember in 10th grade when I realized I hated playing on the school’s basketball team. I couldn’t remember the plays, I didn’t truly understand the sport, and all the aggression on the court was hard for me to shake. I begged my dad to quit but he wouldn’t let me. He lectured me about following through on my commitments and letting down the team (which I knew really wasn’t a problem) and told me that I had to persevere.

I did. I played basketball for the whole season, and then never again. As an adult I’ve learned if something isn’t working, to move on, find what fits you better. I don’t quit easily, the lessons my father instilled in me about perseverance have stuck.

Recently though I have found myself in a place where I must ask myself, do I keep fighting this battle or do I walk away and let it go. The Familial DNA bill (S1595) that I have been working to get through the legislature in Massachusetts for three years, has failed again. I thought we were really close this time. It had been vetted by the Forensic Oversight Committee, voted out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, and yet it died quietly while it rested in the Ways and Means Committee.

My dad was a big fan of Kenny Rogers, so I can’t help thinking of his song the Gambler, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em

Know when to fold ‘em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run”

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to figure out what is stopping this common-sense legislation. It merely provides a protocol to safeguard the procedure of Familial DNA testing in unresolved cases.

I’ve been asking myself if I have the capacity to do this again. I spoke to over 60 legislators about this bill, testified in hearings, collaborated with DNA experts, and sought the endorsement of law enforcement officials. Is it time to “fold em”?

There is a real problem in our crime labs, and I believe the Massachusetts District Attorneys (who have A LOT of power) do not trust the process or oversight of this important state agency. This means that the protocol I developed, which puts the DNA results and discard in the hands of the lab, is not a comfortable option for them.

I can’t say they are wrong.

The Massachusetts crime labs have been a mess for quite some time. It started in 2012 with Annie Dookhan, who was tampering with evidence. Then spread to western MA with Sonja Farak, who was also tampering and using the drugs captured for evidence. Recently in June it was announced there would be a $14 million civil settlement with approximately 31,000 criminal defendants whose cases were thrown out because of those scandals. In 2021 it was revealed that there were 6,300 untested rape kits in the state crime lab. Although, there was a bill H4013 that mandated the backlogged kits be tested within 180 days, only one District Attorney, in Bristol county has begun his own initiative to clear the backlog. DA Quinn started his own “Untested Rape Kit Initiative” to work through the backlog using private labs and his own local DNA lists.

Maybe it is time to “hold em” and see what shakes out with the work that District Attorney Quinn is doing?

As a family member of a murder victim, I don’t care if it is a private lab or a state lab that is able to find the scientific evidence that leads to the person responsible for harming my sister. I just want them to find the right bad guy.

It’s funny how failing can sit comfortably with me, and yet quitting does not. In failure, I know I gave it my best shot, and maybe it wasn’t meant for me – whatever it be. Failure doesn’t give you a choice. Quitting does though, you are able to choose to walk away or run away as Kenny Rogers suggested or stay and fight, holding your cards, hoping you finally get the right hand.

I guess I’m going to “hold em”.


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