Innocence Project and Oregon Innocence Project Cheer New Law Improving Access to DNA Testing
Contact: Steve Wax, (503) 944-2271,
Nick Moroni, (212) 364-5371,
Michelle Feldman, (212) 364-5961,
(Salem, OR – June 30, 2015) – Gov. Kate Brown signed into law on June 25, 2015 HB 3206, which improve access to DNA testing for those seeking to prove they were wrongly convicted by removing the incarceration requirement and by creating a fairer standard for accessing testing.
“This legislation vastly improves the existing law, which has only helped one Oregonian access post-conviction DNA testing that we are aware of,” said Aliza Kaplan, co-founder of the Oregon Innocence Project. “The state legislature and governor should be commended for taking this step to better enable the innocent to get the justice they deserve.”
Under the old law, those seeking testing for certain crime categories had to be incarcerated in order to access testing, but people wrongly convicted of felonies continue to face hardship after they are released from prison. Those wrongly convicted of sexual assaults have the added stigma of having to live as a registered sex offender. Under the new law, incarceration is no longer a requirement of testing for certain crime categories. Twenty-three of the 330 DNA exonerations involved people whose testing occurred when they were no longer incarcerated.
The old law also required those seeking testing to prove that testing would “establish actual innocence.” Under the new law courts can permit testing where it would “lead to a finding of actual innocence.” This new standard permits testing in cases where DNA testing by itself would not necessarily prove innocence but could be combined with other evidence to prove innocence. The new law also creates greater transparency by requiring courts to provide a reason for granting or denying an application for testing.
“In addition to improving access to DNA testing, HB 3206 would also enhance public safety. When an innocent person is wrongfully convicted, the real criminal can be out harming others,” says legal director Steve Wax. Nationally, real perpetrators were identified in 162 of the nation’s 330 wrongful convictions proven by DNA evidence. Those real perpetrators went on to commit 145 additional crimes, including 78 rapes, and 34 murders.
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