News 05.12.15

Innocence Project Cheers Maryland’s Improvement of Access to DNA Testing



Gov. Hogan signs bill that would provide those wrongfully convicted of all violent felonies access to DNA testing that could prove innocence


Contact:  


Nick Moroni, 

nmoroni@innocenceproject.org




Katie Monroe, 

kmonroe@innocenceproject.org

(Annapolis, MD – May 12, 2015) – Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law today 

SB 583

, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sen. Catherine Pugh and Del. Samuel Rosenberg, which will expand access to DNA testing to those convicted of all violent felonies. With the enactment of this law, Maryland has strengthened its previous post-conviction DNA testing statute, which only provided such testing to defendants who were wrongfully convicted of murder, manslaughter and  sexual assault. The amended law will now allow a person who might have been wrongfully convicted of other violent felonies, such as robbery or kidnapping, access to DNA testing that could prove innocence. 

“This legislation vastly improves the existing law not only by making testing available to the innocent, but also by providing an opportunity to find the true perpetrator, who escaped prosecution when the wrong person was convicted. With its enactment, Maryland continues to demonstrate its commitment to justice and protecting the innocent. I want to thank Gov. Hogan, the lead sponsors, Sen. Pugh and Del. Rosenberg, and their colleagues in the legislature for supporting this important bill,” said Katie Monroe, Senior Advocate for National Partnerships at the Innocence Project. 

SB 583, which passed the Senate unanimously and with strong bipartisan support in the House, provides an important fix to Maryland’s 2001 DNA testing law. Under the restrictions in that law, testing was only available to defendants convicted of first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter, first- and second-degree rape, and or a first- or second-degree sexual offense.  This means that, under Maryland’s previous law, innocent individuals who were exonerated of other violent felonies in other states would not have been able to prove their innocence and be freed from prison had they been wrongfully convicted in Maryland. For example, 

James Ochoa

 was exonerated of carjacking and kidnapping in California, after testing of DNA evidence proved his innocence. In Missouri, 

Antonio Beaver

 was freed from a wrongful prison sentence for first-degree robbery after DNA testing of crime scene evidence excluded him as the perpetrator. 

Prior to the enactment of this law, only five states – Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Tennessee – had DNA testing laws that were as restrictive. Maryland’s amended DNA testing law demonstrates its commitment to justice and public safety, and is in line with its history of legislation aimed at protecting the innocent. Maryland first passed its DNA testing law in 2001; in 2008, it passed legislation mandating the recording of police interrogations; and, in 2014, Maryland passed comprehensive eyewitness ID reform. 

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