Kentucky Bill Would Expand DNA Access to Inmates
Posted: December 18, 2012 4:00 pm
Last week Kentucky senator John Schickel pre-filed legislation that would expand that state’s current DNA testing law beyond death row inmates, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“If DNA testing is good enough to send you to prison it should be good enough to get you out of prison,” State Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said while speaking at a criminal law reform symposium held last month at Northern Kentucky University.
Out of the 49 states that have a post-conviction DNA testing law, Kentucky and Alabama are the only two that limit access to prisoners on death row. Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a DNA testing law
“It is kind of strange,” Schickel said of Kentucky’s law. “I think most people would find it weird that you have the right to DNA testing if you are on death row but nowhere else.”
The proposed law limits the expansion of testing to only the most serious felonies or crimes classified as violent under Kentucky law and will not apply to drug cases. Similar legislation failed twice since 2011, Kentucky Deputy Public Advocate Damon Preston said. Now, with Schickel’s support, there is hope that the bill will pass in 2013.
Joe Blaney, director of state legislative policy reform for the Innocence Project in New York, said his group was “absolutely thrilled” to have Schickel’s support for the legislation. The Innocence Project has been assisting the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) in lobbying for expanded post-conviction DNA testing in the state.
If passed, the legislation would allow DNA testing for William Virgil who is serving a 70-year sentence for murder. Otherwise, Virgil will likely have to wait another year for the Kentucky Court of Appeals to consider his request for DNA testing on evidence in his case.
According to Kentucky Innocence Project Supervising Attorney Linda A. Smith, the state’s current DNA access law is open to interpretation by each jurisdiction. When Virgil requested DNA testing last year, a Campbell Circuit Court cited the DNA law when denying the plea. But in Jefferson County, a judge granted a similar request to Kerry Porter that ultimately led to his exoneration.
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