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Golden State Killer Suspect Joseph DeAngelo Must Be Further Swabbed For More DNA, Judge Says

Lawyers representing Joseph DeAngelo, the suspected serial killer behind a decades-long crime spree, have claimed that a search warrant used to obtain cheek swabs of his DNA violated his rights.

By Gina Tron
Joseph Deangelo 3.12

More DNA will be taken from the man accused of orchestrating a decades-long vicious crime spree, a judge ruled Thursday.

Golden State Killer suspect Joseph DeAngelo was in court Thursday as prosecutors asked Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White to allow them to gather more DNA swabs from the inside of DeAngelo’s cheeks.

DeAngelo, 74, was arrested in April 2018 after genetic analysis pointed to him as a suspect in a string of rapes and murders in numerous California jurisdictions during the '70s and '80s. The former police officer has been charged with 13 murders and 18 of the more than 50 rapes he’s suspected of committing. DNA from tissue taken out of his trash by investigators led to his arrest. 

That same month, Sacramento county prosecutors received permission from White to obtain at least one cheek swab from him for DNA collection purposes. To prepare for DeAngelo’s preliminary hearing, scheduled for May 12, they have requested additional buccal swabs. The request was initially approved on Feb. 3, Mercury News reported.

However, DeAngelo’s defense attorneys fought it, complaining that they learned about the request on “extraordinarily short notice,” according to a motion they filed to stop the warrant from being served, obtained by Mercury News. The motion said that the warrant was signed without their knowledge and “not in open court with defense counsel and a court reporter present."

In court on Thursday, prosecutors asked for permission to obtain DNA from DeAngelo through five buccal swab kits. Each kit contains two swabs. Prosecutors from Ventura, Santa Barbara, Orange and Contra Costa counties wanted one kit performed apiece. Sacramento also wanted a backup kit.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Temple told the court Thursday that the approval of the Feb. 3 request for DNA “was correct then” and “correct now.” She maintained that it did not violate DeAngelo’s rights, including his sixth amendment right, citing that a lawyer doesn’t need to be present for such a procedure. Still, she said that his defense was invited to be present during the execution of the swabs.

Temple added that DNA swabbing is one of the "most gentle” procedures needed for evidence collection. 

“We are not asking for blood samples,” she said. “We are asking for cheek swabs.”

Temple also stated “that the court would be within its right to issue the warrant right here, right now, and have him swabbed in open court if that’s what the defendant would like to have to ameliorate his complaints.”

Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Cerri rejected that offer and called the fifth swab kit unnecessary. She also said it was the obtaining of the search warrant, and not the requested swabs themselves, that the defense took issue with. She said that all proceedings in a death penalty case, including proceedings held in chambers, need to have at least a court reporter present. 

DeAngelo, who was looking more gaunt than ever, squinted and winced as the prosecution and defense squabbled over legal jargon and the search warrant.

In the end, White ruled that the prosecution can obtain buccal swabs of DeAngelo. He instructed the procedure to be done the same day. While he approved four of the five requested DNA kits, he did deny the backup kit for Sacramento.