Law will help exonerate the innocent and prevent wrongful convictions
Contact: Alana Salzberg; firstname.lastname@example.org; 212-364-5983
(NEW YORK, NY; Monday, April 5, 2010) - Today, Governor Ted Strickland signed one of the nation's most comprehensive criminal justice reform packages into law, making it easier to exonerate prisoners through DNA testing and helping prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place.
"This law will strengthen the criminal justice system substantially. It will help law enforcement apprehend the guilty, and it will help the wrongfully convicted prove their innocence," said Professor Mark Godsey, Director of the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
By passing the law, Ohio becomes a model state for implementing reforms that address and prevent wrongful convictions. While other states have adopted reforms that are similar to parts of the package in Ohio, no other state has adopted an omnibus bill of this magnitude that includes such comprehensive changes to police practices.
Specifically, the newly signed law creates:
• A requirement for preservation of DNA evidence in all cases of serious crime, such as homicide and sexual assault
• Police incentives for the recording of all interrogations from beginning to end in cases of serious crime
• A requirement for police lineups and photo identification procedures to be conducted in double-blind fashion, meaning the officer who oversees the eyewitness procedure with the witness does not know who among the sample pool is the suspect
• An expansion of Ohio's post-conviction DNA testing law to allow for DNA testing to be done during the parole phase of the justice cycle
"This is a huge step forward for Ohio and a model for other states to follow. In the months and years ahead, policymakers around the country will look at what Ohio has done and understand how they, too, can create a more fair, accurate and reliable criminal justice system," said Rebecca Brown, Policy Advocate at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law in New York.
The reform package stems from a joint project between the Ohio Innocence Project and the Columbus Dispatch, which found serious problems in addressing and preventing wrongful convictions. Two years ago, a group of first-year law students who were part of the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law began researching and drafting the legislation. They were supervised by Godsey and Cincinnati attorney Michele Berry. The Innocence Project, a national organization based in New York, worked closely with the Ohio Innocence Project to build legislative support for the bill over the last two years, including legislative testimony, meetings with key legislators and substantial background on social science research and the effectiveness of reforms in other states.
The Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. To date, 252 people nationwide have been exonerated through DNA testing and dozens of states have implemented critical reforms to prevent wrongful convictions.