New Jersey Exoneree Urges State to Fix DNA Testing Law
Gerard Richardson served 19 years in prison for murder before DNA evidence proved he was innocent and led to his release last October. He was convicted of the 1994 murder of 19-year-old Monica Reyes based on the testimony of a forensic dentist who testified that Richardson’s teeth matched a bite mark found on the victim’s body. New DNA testing of a swab taken from the bite mark excluded Richardson as the source and pointed to another male perpetrator. Unfortunately, the state’s DNA testing law currently prevents authorities from uploading the test results into the federal DNA database — officially named the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) — and possibly identifying the actual murderer.
In an op-ed that appeared in yesterday’s New Jersey
, Richardson urged the state’s legislators to consider a proposal that would help the innocent and protect the public’s safety by fixing the DNA testing law. He writes:
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) have proposed a sensible law to cut through the red tape and to enhance the use of CODIS as a crime-solving tool in New Jersey. Under their proposed legislation, a court would be able to order the New Jersey State Laboratory to conduct preapproval of a private facility, provided a judge agrees that it is appropriate. The cost to the state taxpayers would be negligible because defendants would be responsible for paying any travel expenses associated with the review process.
Rebuilding my life has not been easy, but I am convinced that something positive can come from the two decades I undeservingly spent behind bars. I hope the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie pass and sign this law to give victims like Monica Reyes and her family the justice and closure they deserve and to help exonerate other wrongfully convicted people like me.
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