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New DNA law in New York

The below posting is with the permission of the writer Bruce Hulme.
Larry Walsh

New Law Expands Access to DNA Testing and Discovery for Defendants

A recently passed law that expands the New York State DNA Databank. Governor Cuomo, joined by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, signed the historic bill into law making New York the first state in the nation with an “All-Crimes” DNA law.

New York’s DNA Databank was created in 1996. Since that time, the Databank has helped prosecutors solve nearly 2,900 crimes. DNA evidence has also helped exonerate 27 New Yorkers.

Beginning on October 1, 2012, DNA samples will be collected from anyone convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor. The law is not retroactive and does not apply to children involved in Family Court matters or to youthful offenders. Also, first-time offenders convicted of low-level marijuana possession will not be required to provide a DNA sample.

The new law will make the following reforms to the state’s criminal justice system:

“All Crimes” DNA Expansion: Previously, state law only permitted DNA to be collected from 48 percent of offenders convicted of a Penal Law crime. As a result, New York State missed important opportunities to prevent needless suffering of crime victims and failed to use a powerful tool that could be used to exonerate the innocent.
Expanded Access for Certain Criminal Defendants to DNA Testing: This legislation will allow defendants charged with specified crimes who were convicted after a guilty plea access to DNA testing to demonstrate their innocence. Additionally, criminal defendants will be allowed to request a court order to compare crime scene evidence against the State’s DNA Databank. Together, these reforms will help to ensure that innocent defendants are not convicted or, if convicted after a plea, are able to demonstrate their actual innocence.
Expanded Access to Discovery for Certain Criminal Defendants After Trial: In limited circumstances, defendants will be able to seek discovery of property to demonstrate their actual innocence after their conviction. Such discovery will provide the court with the evidence necessary to reach a proper decision on a defendant’s motion for such relief

The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center in Albany can process 10,000 DNA samples from convicted offenders a month. The Governor’s proposed expansion will bring the monthly total to less than 7,000 and will not create a backlog.

In a March 23 press release from the governor’s office the following comments were noted:

“Governor Cuomo has achieved a historic expansion of our state’s DNA Databank, making New York a national leader in using DNA to enhance our criminal justice system,” Lieutenant Governor Duffy said. “Expanding New York’s Databank will help law enforcement keep residents of Monroe County and across our state safer, while at the same time giving those who are wrongly convicted a greater ability to establish their innocence. This is a great victory for justice for all New Yorkers.”

New York State’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Elizabeth Glazer said, “Expanding the DNA Databank ensures that science, not luck, will be the method by which we prevent and solve crimes. For years, countless New Yorkers were victimized because less than half of convicted offenders were required to give a DNA sample. Now that loophole has been closed. By passing the DNA bill, we have ensured that victims will have justice, that New Yorkers will be protected from crimes, and that the wrongly convicted will have access to the Databank that can help exonerate them.”

District Attorney Doorley said, “Since its inception, New York’s DNA Databank has helped our law enforcement community solve thousands of crimes here in New York, as well as throughout the country. Like other District Attorneys, I supported the Governor’s proposal to expand our Databank because I recognized it wasn’t just about the collection of samples, it was about the potential of bringing hope and justice to crime victims and their families.”

Chief Sheppard said, “I’ve seen firsthand how DNA technology has given the families of victims hope, and helped officers identify the criminal responsible for the death of their loved one. By creating an All-Crimes DNA Databank Governor Cuomo has given an invaluable tool to the officers who are continuously working on cases where suspects have yet to been identified. ”

Betsy McCabe said, “My daughter, Karen Marie Turtu, was found strangled and beaten to death in a snow bank behind a city restaurant in February 1993. Karen’s death would have remained another unsolved murder if a police officer, the crime lab and a prosecutor hadn’t collaborated to use DNA evidence to find her killer. Expanding New York’s Databank means that other families will not have to go through what I did – 14 years of not knowing and wondering if there would ever be justice. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for putting New Yorkers like me first and making the DNA Databank expansion a priority.”

Bruce Hulme
ISPLA Director of Government Affairs

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