(March 19, 2008) Legislatures in four states this week are considering critical reforms that can help prevent wrongful convictions, clear a path for innocent people to be exonerated and compensate the wrongfully convicted. Here’s an update on what’s happening this week:
– Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck testified today in South Carolina in support of a bill that would allow post-conviction DNA testing and require the preservation of evidence. Last week, Wyoming’s governor signed a law granting access to post-conviction DNA testing, and the new law will go into effect this summer. South Carolina is one of just seven states that do not yet have laws on the books granting post-conviction DNA testing.
–Innocence Project Policy Analyst Rebecca Brown is testifying today at the State Legislature on a bill that could improve the way Colorado law enforcement agencies collect and store biological evidence from crime scenes. A major series last year in the Denver Post – now a Pultizer Prize finalist – explored evidence preservation issues in Colorado and uncovered several cases in which inmates claiming innocence will never obtain DNA testing because evidence has been destroyed. Unfortunately, the bill in Colorado would allow evidence to be destroyed that could prove innocence, and the Innocence Project is working with legislators and local advocates to amend it so that evidence is preserved properly.
– Legislators will vote today on a bill that would compensate people who have been exonerated. The bill would provide at least $50,000 per year of wrongful incarceration, as well as access to health care and transitional services. Florida lawmakers are also considering a compensation bill.
– Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom will testify March 20 at the Connecticut Legislature in support of a bill that would improve eyewitness identification procedures statewide. Eyewitness misidentification was a factor in more than 75 percent of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing – and social science research over the last three decades has led to improved police procedures proven to reduce misidentifications.
Learn more about the Innocence Project’s identification reforms here
Several other state legislatures around the country are also considering measures targeted at improving state criminal justice systems to prevent the injustice of wrongful conviction.
What You Can Do
• Learn about your state’s laws –
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