Creem Bill on Wrongful Convictions Becomes Law
The following is a press release issued by the office of Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) on Feb. 17, 2012:
Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law a bill, filed by Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D/Newton), to provide expanded access to DNA and other forensic evidence for testing by inmates who maintain they have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. This is the culmination of a decade-long effort by Senator Creem and leaves Oklahoma as the only state in the nation that does not guarantee the right to some form of post-conviction forensic testing.
“I’m pleased that we are finally stepping into the 21st century on this issue,” said Senator Creem. “We can all be proud that the Commonwealth now protects persons wrongfully convicted. Let us also bear in mind that for each wrongfully-convicted person behind bars, there is a real criminal out on the loose.”
A panel of the Boston Bar Association released a report on wrongful convictions in 2009, supporting Senator Creem’s approach. The group consisted of academics and defense attorneys, as well as prosecutors, former judges, and law-enforcement officials – demonstrating a broad consensus behind the importance of forensic testing. Their report followed a 2009 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, holding that states may not be constitutionally required to provide access to such testing.
Senator Creem’s bill sets up a judicial mechanism to ensure that only worthy claims are considered. Applicants would need to explain why the evidence wasn’t available at the time of trial – for example, because the science didn’t yet exist to fully test the evidence at hand, or because the defendant didn’t even know about the existence of such evidence.
According to The Innocence Project, there have been 289 exonerations nationwide on the basis of post-conviction testing of DNA evidence, including 9 in Massachusetts.
The new law will take effect in 90 days.