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Wednesday, April 07, 2010
New Ohio DNA Law Called 'Model', 'Best in Nation'
The text of the new law is here; you can also view the fiscal note and bill analyses. Governor Ted Strickland's brief press release is here.
State Senator David Goodman sponsored SB 77, which expands DNA testing for certain convicted felons, eliminates DNA testing for felons who pleaded guilty or no contest, preserves biological evidence in criminal proceeding and improves eyewitness identification procedures.
"This bill updates Ohio's DNA law and will play a significant role in the modernization of Ohio's system of criminal justice," Strickland said. "The new procedures will help improve criminal investigations and save lives."
"Ohio's new DNA law called model," is the Columbus Dispatch report by Jim Siegel.
With the stroke of Gov. Ted Strickland's pen yesterday, experts say Ohio now has some of the best laws in the country to protect the innocent from wrongful convictions and put the right people behind bars.
Strickland, joined by a handful of men who were exonerated after serving years in prison for crimes they did not commit, signed Senate Bill 77. It sets statewide standards for retaining biological evidence, requires the taking of DNA from anyone arrested on a felony charge and requires new procedures for suspect lineups.
"It's a good day for justice and fairness," said Strickland, flanked by Sen. David Goodman, R-New Albany, and Rep. W. Carlton Weddington, D-Columbus.
Goodman introduced the bill after a Dispatch investigation in January 2008 exposed widespread shortcomings in Ohio's DNA law, including the derailing of prisoner DNA tests by systemic indifference or hostility.
Attending the bill-signing were two men freed as a result of the newspaper's series: Robert McClendon of Columbus, who served 18 years for a child rape that DNA testing showed he did not commit; and Joseph Fears Jr. of Columbus, who wrongly served more than 25 years for two Columbus rapes.
Other Ohioans freed in the past decade by DNA evidence - Walter Smith, Clarence Elkins and Danny Brown - also joined the governor.
"I feel very emotional about what we've accomplished today," Goodman said, noting the six-year process of drafting and changing DNA-evidence laws. "It's going to improve the criminal-justice system in so many different ways."
Marc Kovac writes, "DNA collection requirements for criminals, accused OK'd," for the state's News-Leader.
The new law includes provisions concerning the storage and access of DNA samples, providing a mechanism for individuals convicted of crimes to prove their innocence.
It creates a new statewide task force to establish standards for collecting, storing and cataloging biological evidence.
It requires law enforcement to follow certain procedures when conducting live or photo lineups for witnesses to identify potential law breakers.
And it calls for anyone 18 years or older who are arrested on felony charges to submit DNA samples to law enforcement -- something that has prompted concern about civil liberties and government intrusion into citizens' lives.
Strickland downplayed those concerns.
The Cincinnati Business Courier has, "Ohio's new DNA law a model, experts say."
"Ohio is truly the national leader on innocence reforms and will be the role model other states look to as they contemplate similar measures in the coming years," said Mark Godsey, director of the Innocence Project, in the Dispatch report.
Florida's Lakeland Ledger notes the new law with, "Ohio’s DNA law considered best in country," posted by Shoshana Walter.
-Requires DNA samples to be taken from anyone convicted of a felony after July 1, 2011.
-Requires agencies to retain biological evidence for up to 30 years in murder and sexual-assault cases. Five year limit when defendant pleads guilty.
-Allows DNA testing for parolees and anyone in the sex offender registry.
-Requires blind suspect lineups, meaning the officer either doesn’t know the identity of the real suspect or uses a photo-lineup technique in which only the witness can see the photos.
-Provides incentives for investigators to record interrogations.
There are some similarities to some Florida laws already on the books.
In 2006, Florida required DNA evidence to be preserved for anyone who could petition for postconviction DNA testing (that would apply only to those convicted of felonies). My understanding is that before that law went into effect, each court system throughout the state had different policies about when and how evidence got destroyed–many Florida counties simply destroyed DNA evidence that might have led to exonerations.
That wasn’t the case in Polk, though. The Clerk of Court’s office told me that before the 2006 law, Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit actually saved all evidence in life or death sentence cases.
Earlier this week, Sharon Coolidge wrote, "DNA bill helped by University of Cincinnati students," for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Watch any crime cop show on TV and DNA evidence likely played a role in capturing the bad guy.
But in real life, lawyers say that evidence isn't always available.
DNA will be more readily available in years to come because a group of University of Cincinnati students helped craft bill that overhauls the state's criminal justice system in an effort to avoid wrongful convictions.
Gov. Ted Strickland is set to sign Senate Bill 77 into law today.The bill creates:
A requirement that DNA be saved in all serious crimes for five years in plea bargain cases and for 30 years, or until a person gets out of prison, if a person is found guilty at trial.
Police incentives for recording interrogations start to finish.
A requirement that police lineups and eyewitness photo identifications be double blind, meaning the officer in charge of the lineup doesn't even know who the suspect is.
An expansion of post-conviction DNA testing to allow convicted felons better access to DNA testing.
A requirement that DNA be taken from people after arrest on felony charges, instead of after conviction as happens now.
The provisions take effect by the end of the year, except for DNA collection after arrest, which is delayed due to the anticipated .9 million-per-year cost.
A March 25 Columbus Dispatch article, "Lawmakers OK Ohio DNA bill," reported the new law's legislative passage.
In their final session before heading into an Easter break, Ohio lawmakers moved bills yesterday designed to improve criminal investigations, ban texting while driving and give local law enforcement more power to tackle illegal immigration.
After setting modern records this session for a lack of legislative action, the House and Senate opened the spigot and sent a number of measures to Gov. Ted Strickland, including one that would require the collection of DNA evidence from anyone arrested on a felony charge in Ohio.
Strickland is expected to sign Senate Bill 77, which also opens DNA testing to parolees. The bill also requires blind suspect lineups - where the presiding officer does not know the identity of the true suspect or can't see the picture a witness is viewing - and sets a new 30-year standard for retaining biological evidence in cases of murder and sexual assault.
The limit is five years when a defendant pleads guilty, a House-added provision that bill sponsor Sen. David Goodman, R-New Albany, opposes. "I think it's too short a period of time, and individuals will potentially have some problems down the line," he told the Senate before a final concurrence vote.
But, Goodman added, he agreed to the compromise and said it's "still a very good bill."
Related posts can be found in the DNA, eyewitness identification, and state legislation indexes.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 at 11:20 AM in DNA, Eyewitness Identification, Forensics, Law Enforcement, State Legislation | Permalink
Technorati Tags: Clarence Elkins, Danny Brown, David Goodman, DNA, exoneration, eyewitness id, eyewitness identification, Florida, Joseph Fears, law enforcement, lineup, Mark Godsey, Ohio, Ohio Legislature, Robert McClendon, SB 77, Senate Bill 77, Ted Strickland, University of Cincinnati, Walter Smith
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