Yesterday, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed a law that removes an arbitrary three-year deadline after a person’s conviction in which they are able to present newly discovered non-DNA evidence of their innocence (SB 509). The law also clarifies that newly discovered non-DNA evidence includes scientific advancements or expert recantations that undermine forensic evidence used to convict someone.
Given that 80 percent of those exonerated have proved their innocence through non-DNA evidence, the action taken by Gov. Malloy and the state legislature marks an important step in ensuring that wrongfully convicted Connecticans are able to prove their innocence.
Exonerees James Tillman and Alfred Swinton and their families advocated for the bill, along with the Innocence Project.
Alfred Swinton was exonerated this past March after spending 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Swinton was convicted of murder based on a bite mark expert’s testimony that his teeth matched bite marks found on the victim. Swinton eventually proved his innocence through DNA testing and the expert’s recantation of his trial testimony, in which he acknowledged that the bite mark analysis used to convict Swinton is no longer scientifically supported.
Thankfully, Swinton had DNA available for testing in his case—but had it been unavailable, the expert’s recantation may not have been enough to prove his innocence. Swinton’s case is one of too many close calls that highlight the immense need for the law Connecticut passed yesterday.
Senate President Martin Looney, Senator Paul Doyle, Senator Gary Winfield, Rep. William Tong and Rep. Rosa Rebimbas championed the bill in the legislature. Thanks to the efforts of the Governor, Legislature and Connecticut exonerees, the state’s wrongfully convicted will now have fairer access to justice.