Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ohio criminal trial/DNA testing legislation

A Cincinnati Enquirer article this past weekend reported that a justice reform bill designed to prevent wrongful convictions and endorsed by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland also includes a controversial measure to expand the collection of DNA samples to those arrested on felony charges. Current Ohio law holds DNA sampling is only taken from "any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony offense and who is sentenced to a prison term or to a community residential sanction in a jail or community-based correctional facility, or who is convicted of or pleads guilty to any of the misdemeanor offenses listed in the section and who is sentenced to a term of imprisonment must submit to a DNA specimen collection procedure."

Law enforcement groups support the expansion, saying it gets violent offenders off the street quicker and prevents future crimes, according to the article, but others say DNA collection before conviction crosses the line, especially because the bill does not address what happens if a person isn't convicted. The bill, however, amended in June, does "provide for the automatic sealing of records when a convicted offender has been exonerated, as requested by Senators Bill Seitz and Eric Kearney."

Senate Bill 77, passed by the Senate last June and now in the House Committee on Criminal Justice, would also "empower the attorney general to establish rules for uploading DNA profiles of arrestees to the national DNA database," and "add a temporary provision for the Ohio Supreme Court to review and establish rules for jury instructions around eyewitness identification."

Ohio's Capital Connection (subscription) also reported that "testimony presented on behalf of HB99 in the House's Criminal Justice Committee in May, was the same as testimony offered in the Senate Civil Justice Committee on SB77."

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