Harrell Case Illustrates Need for Expansion of New Jersey’s DNA Access Law


A piece published Wednesday by the

Marshall Project

details the plight of Innocence Project client Dion Harrell, who was convicted in 1992 of a 1988 rape which he maintains he did not commit and sentenced to eight years in prison. Harrell was released on parole after four years but must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Last year, the Innocence Project requested permission to test evidence from the case using technology which was not available at the time of Harrell’s trial. Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni initially refused to allow testing, saying the case was too old. Under the New Jersey statute, only those who are currently in prison have access to DNA testing. Local media coverage and an appeal by Harrell’s lawyers prompted the prosecutor to eventually consent to testing, which is currently pending.

Thirteen other states currently have laws which stipulate that that only those still serving time are eligible for post-conviction testing. Montana recently signed a law extending DNA testing to those already released. State legislators in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Oregon are considering similar measures.

The article uses the case of Ted Bradford to show how a defendant convicted in a state which doesn’t limit post-conviction testing to current inmates can seek justice for a wrongful conviction. Bradford was exonerated via DNA evidence five years after completing his 10-year sentence for a rape he did not commit but for which he had to register as a level-3 sex offender.

Randy Mills was wrongfully convicted of a sexually assault and had to register as a sex offender, which prevented him from seeing his grandchildren.

“If it wasn’t for my ability to get the testing done after my release . . . I would still have to register as a sex offender,” Bradford told the

Marshall Project

. “I would still have to report my address; I would still have this conviction on my record. The nightmare would have continued.”

Read the

Marshall Project




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