|Posted:||April 20, 2018 12:54 PM|
|From:||Representative Tedd C. Nesbit|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Reintroduction of the Post Conviction Relief Act and Updates to the DNA Testing Statute|
|In the near future, I plan to reintroduce legislation amending the Post Conviction Relief Act and post-conviction DNA testing statute. These important pieces of legislation were introduced this session as HB 1801 and HB 1802; however, I am reintroducing the bills to reflect updated language agreed upon through months of constructive negotiations between the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, as well as with the Commonwealth Victim Advocate.
Please consider co-sponsoring this legislation to improve access to justice for those who are truly wrongly convicted, while protecting crime victims and witnesses.
Introduced as HB2307
The legislation would improve the Post-Conviction Relief Act to help innocent people present new evidence challenging their wrongful convictions – whether through newly available DNA or other types of evidence. Under the current law, a petition for relief must be filed within 60 days of when newly available evidence supports a claim of innocence. Because of the strict time limit, petitioners must file motions challenging their convictions each time new evidence becomes available, rather than filing a single complete petition; resulting in a waste of court resources. The legislation extends the time limit to one-year—improving court efficiency, limiting meritless petitions, and ensuring wrongfully convicted people can present a full picture of all evidence of their innocence.
Since the bill was initially introduced, provisions were added at the request of the Commonwealth Victim Advocate to protect crime victims and witnesses. By explicitly requiring all investigative members to identify themselves and their reason for contacting witnesses and victims, this legislation encourages honesty and transparency. It also provides prosecutors with fair notice of what witnesses who may be presented will say, which will reduce unnecessary strain on district attorney offices.
Previous co-sponsors: Briggs, D. Costa, Gillen, A. Harris, Heffley, James, McClinton, Neilson, O’Neill, Pickett, Readshaw, Rozzi, Schlossberg, Soloman, Ward, Murt.
Introduced as HB2308
|Description:||This legislation updates our post-conviction DNA testing statute. Meaningful access to DNA testing for the wrongfully convicted is a matter of justice and public safety. To date, 351 wrongfully convicted Americans have been proven innocent by DNA testing and the real perpetrators in these cases went on to be convicted of 149 additional crimes, including 77 rapes and 34 murders. In Pennsylvania, 13 innocent people were exonerated with DNA testing and the real perpetrators were identified in eight of these cases.
In 2002, Pennsylvania was one of the earlier states to pass a law creating an avenue for the wrongfully convicted to access DNA testing. The law has not been updated since then, and now that all 50 states have passed similar laws we have the benefit of knowing areas that can be improved. We intend to introduce legislation that will accomplish the following:
Previous co-sponsors: Briggs, D. Costa, Gillen, McClinton, Neilson, Pickett, Schlossberg., Murt.