The Ongoing Struggle for Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing
Photo: Cassie Johnson
An article in Thursday’s
discusses the limitations in some post-conviction DNA access laws, which are designed to give prisoners with claims of innocence the opportunity to prove it through DNA testing. Many states place restrictions on who can apply, excluding those who pled guilty, for example, or allowing only death row inmates to apply. Though 49 states have such laws, some innocent prisoners are still obliged to engage in a legal battle as they seek the right to testing.
Opponents of loosening restrictions say that they fear a torrent of requests. But, as a successful collaboration between the Arizona Justice Project and the state Attorney General’s Office demonstrates, these fears have not been realized.
Lindsay Herf, DNA Project manager and executive co-director of the Arizona Justice Project, says arguments that expanding access to testing would open floodgates to frivolous stalling have no evidence.
“Our canvassing of 5,000 inmates led to just over 300 people applying for help,” she says. “Prior to that, we have found that in 12 years of Arizona having a post-conviction DNA testing statute, there have been approximately 45 defendants – that’s about four a year! – who have applied.
Pending legislation in Pennsylvania would loosen restrictions on that law, which currently enforces a stringent application deadline.
DNA access laws
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