In May of 2013, Oklahoma became the 50 state to enact legislation covering post conviction DNA review for criminal defendants. The new law, 22 O.S. § 1373, Post conviction DNA Testing Act, is some of the most comprehensive legislation on DNA review in the nation. The law impacts criminal defendants that received 25 years or more of imprisonment in violent felony cases.
The legislation was extremely popular with Oklahoma representatives, there being not one vote to disapprove the Act. The head of the Oklahoma Justice Commission also notes how the bill had unanimous reccomendation by the commission.
Cases of Wrongful Conviction in Oklahoma
In cases of wrongful conviction, the new law is a lifeline that could grant prisoners’ access to Post Conviction DNA testing of forensic evidence that may ultimately exonerate them. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, as of January 2014, twenty-four Oklahomans have received exonerations of crimes. Thus, with the passage of the new Oklahoma law, we may see this number rise.
Improvements in DNA Testing
Given the substantial improvements in DNA testing technology over the last twenty years, it is only fitting that Oklahoma legislation change to keep pace with technology. Although Oklahoma was the last state to adopt such Post Conviction DNA review laws, Oklahoma’s recently enacted statute is a well-thought-out model for other states. One touted feature of the new law is its inclusive access to testing. Many other states exclude testing based on various circumstances. These include barring testing for persons who originally plead guilty to their crimes.
The ability to obtain DNA testing post-conviction is imperative for those fighting wrongful convictions. The value of scientific evidence that can prove innocence is undeniable in our justice system, which considers sending an innocent person to prison one of most serious miscarriages of justice. Unbelievably, prior to laws like the Postconviction DNA Testing Act, it was not uncommon for convicted persons to be denied access to DNA evidence. It is still not unusual to find cases today were DNA evidence is available, but was never subject to testing. Now, when these cases come to light, the wrongfully convicted have an opportunity to obtain testing and prove their innocence.
Limitations on The New Post Conviction DNA Testing Laws
The law not only provides for testing of DNA that was previously untested, but also “testing with newer testing techniques that provide a reasonable likelihood of results that are more accurate and probative than the results of the previous DNA test”. This is an important distinction. A skillful attorney can help determine if there is value in additional DNA testing in your case.
Some naysayers raise concerns of convicted persons abusing the system. But Oklahoma law ensures that not everyone requesting testing gets testing. The original sentencing court has the opportunity to hold a hearing to determine if testing is appropriate under the law. Any requests “made to unreasonably delay the execution of the sentence or the administration of justice” are subject to denial. The law also preserves the integrity of evidence and guards against tampering and alteration of evidence.
Contact a Tulsa Post Conviction Relief Criminal Attorney
DNA evidence is a powerful tool. If you or a loved one need help with post-conviction DNA testing in Oklahoma, or wish to find a criminal law attorney who can represent you in other criminal matters, you should speak with one of the capable criminal law attorneys at the Kania Law Office. Call today for a free consultation at 918-743-2233. If you prefer, you can complete an online form instead, and our skilled staff will reach out to you. English and Spanish assistance is available.
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Are you looking for Tulsa attorneys who will fight aggressively for you? Our team of criminal defense attorneys have the experience needed in Oklahoma law to secure the outcome you deserve.