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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 9, 2016 04:21 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Update to DNA testing law
I will be reintroducing Senate Bill 1134 of last session. The use of forensic DNA testing has revolutionized the administration of justice in Pennsylvania. District attorneys routinely use it to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and DNA testing can be used to ensure the integrity of convictions already obtained. Act 109 of 2002 enabled convicted persons to move for DNA testing relevant to their cases. To date, 333 wrongfully convicted Americans have been proven innocent by DNA testing, including 12 Pennsylvanians. The real perpetrators were identified in 163 DNA-based exoneration cases. These offenders went on to be convicted of 145 additional crimes, including 77 rapes and 34 murders.

The time has come to update our DNA testing law to reflect the significant advances in technology and the lessons learned by criminal justice professionals since 2002. I intend to introduce legislation that will accomplish the following:
  • ŸRemove the supervision requirement: Currently only people serving a sentence can apply for DNA testing. Dozens of citizens have been denied the ability to prove their innocence because their sentence expired. Twenty-nine other states have no incarceration or supervision requirement in their DNA law.

  • ŸAllow those who plead guilty to access testing. Nationally, ten percent of DNA-based exonerees initially pleaded guilty to the charges even though they were innocent.

  • ŸRequire the Commonwealth to identify all physical evidence in a case. Currently, petitioners for testing must identify all evidence to be tested, but they are often unaware of all the physical evidence collected by the Commonwealth during the investigation.

  • ŸAllow testing when new DNA testing technology becomes available. Currently, DNA testing is only available when the testing technology being requested was not available at the time of trial. The statutory language has caused confusion in the courts. In addition, many testing laboratories reach “inconclusive” results when there are multiple persons’ DNA in a sample, but newer technologies exist to separately identify the DNA of multiple persons.

  • ŸMatching with DNA profiles in CODIS. A court must currently consider whether DNA testing will yield “exculpatory results” when deciding whether to grant testing. My bill will clarify that courts may also consider whether DNA testing will be exculpatory for someone other than the petitioner. This is because the testing results will be added to the FBI’s DNA database, called CODIS.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation to make maximum use of DNA science in the administration of justice.

Introduced as SB916