Feb 13

Last Wednesday, State Representative John W. Scibak  joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing an act that provides courts access to forensic and scientific analysis under certain circumstances. The legislation aims to prevent the wrongful conviction of innocent parties in criminal cases.

 This legislation establishes a process for persons convicted of a crime, adjudicated delinquent, who pled guilty to a crime or pled no contest, to file a motion with a court requesting forensic or scientific analysis of evidence that could prove their innocence.

“I applaud Chairman O’Flaherty and my colleagues in the House for their work on this forensic analysis legislation,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “This legislation will improve the justice system in Massachusetts as it will prevent the wrongful conviction of criminals and give already wrongfully-accused victims another chance to prove their innocence.”

 “We commend the Legislature for passing this bill,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.  “This legislation sets forth a well-reasoned process that protects the innocent while at the same time ensures that families of crime victims are notified of the process and that the court system is not inundated with frivolous proceedings.”

“With the passage of this legislation, the wrongly incarcerated will have the procedural tools necessary to prove their innocence,” stated Representative Eugene O’Flaherty (D – Chelsea), House Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “This legislation is at no additional cost to the tax payers and it provides convicted defendants with an expeditious way to access necessary evidence that could possibly result in an acquittal.”

 “I am pleased that the law enforcement community, the judiciary, the defense bar and the Legislature have come together to craft a good law that assures that no person spends time in prison that does not belong there,” stated Representative John Fernandes (D – Milford), House Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee. “We hold freedom highest among the rights that we cherish. One day, one week, one year, is too long for an innocent person to be held in prison. For the over 280 cases where DNA testing has resulted in reversals, the average time in prison was 13 ½ years. No one should miss that much of their life.  Just as importantly, experience has shown that the DNA test results can also be used to identify the real perpetrator responsible for the crime, hold them accountable and get them off our streets.” 

The filed motion must include a description of the analysis, a demonstration that the test results would be admissible in court, a description of the evidence to be analyzed, information as to how the test results would be material to the case, and a showing as to why the evidence has not already been tested.

 The court will grant the motion for testing if it determines the following: the evidence for testing exists, the evidence has a chain of custody and has not been tampered with, the evidence has not been tested previously, the test results would be relevant to the case, the motion is not made simply to delay, and the test results would be admissible in court.

 The crime victims must be notified by the district attorney or Attorney General if a motion is filed, if the motion is allowed, where the testing is approved, and victims also must be notified of the results.