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Massachusetts Passes Forensic Analysis Legislation

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The state of Massachusetts has passed a bill that will lessen the amount wrongful conviction at no extra cost to taxpayers.

A win-win situation.

Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law last week.

Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty was pivotal in the efforts of the state House to approve a bill that provides courts with greater access to DNA evidence. The bill, passed earlier this month, affords courts with access to scientific and forensic evidence under certain conditions. The aim of the increased access is to strengthen Massachusetts’ judicial system by avoiding the conviction of innocent people in criminal cases.

Rep. O’Flaherty was pleased with the bill’s passage.

“With the passage of this legislation, the wrongly incarcerated will have the procedural tools necessary to prove their innocence. 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.”

The bill establishes a process for those convicted of crimes, adjudicated delinquents, and those who plead guilty or no contest to a crime to file a motion with the court to request forensic or scientific analysis of evidence that may prove their innocence.

Other representatives recognized and applauded the importance of the legislation. House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo stated

“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.”

Per the Chelsea Record,

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 motion for testing will be granted if the court determines the following:

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 District Attorney or Attorney General must notify crime victims if a motion if filed and if the motion if allowed, as well as where the testing is approved. Victims will be notified of the results.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is pleased that the rights of the victims are preserved alongside with the recognition of the importance of protecting the rights of the innocent.

“We commend the Legislature for passing this bill. 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.”

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