Privacy Law

Mass. Appeals Court Allows Suit by Man Who Volunteered DNA Sample, Wants Genetic Profile Destroyed


A Massachusetts man who voluntarily provided DNA in 2002 to police investigating a murder may pursue a privacy invasion suit seeking return of his genetic profile, a state appeals court has ruled.

Keith Amato claims in his class action suit that police promised the sample and data would not be retained if his DNA didn’t match crime scene evidence, according to the opinion. The state eventually returned the DNA sample, but not the genetic profile. Amato sued for breach of contract and under two state laws governing state retention of data and invasion of privacy. The Massachusetts Appeals Court allowed all three causes of action.

The Boston Herald and the Boston Globe have stories.

“DNA information is highly sensitive,” the court said. “Citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such information.”

Amato was among more than 100 men asked to provide the samples as police investigated the murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington. “Clearly, the district attorney’s innovative approach worked,” the opinion notes. Police arrested Christopher McCowen, Worthington’s trash collector, after the DNA he provided matched crime scene evidence. McCowen’s subsequent conviction in 2006 has been upheld on appeal.

Boston lawyer Mark Batten represented Amato on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “It’s a procedural victory for us [and] a ground breaking opinion,” he told the Boston Globe.

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