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Published: Friday, 3/19/2010

DNA tests uphold justice

OHIO lawmakers have taken commendable action in pursuit of a more effective criminal justice system. They have adopted a measure that establishes new protections against wrongful conviction and makes it easier for innocent suspects to be exonerated through DNA testing.

Gov. Ted Strickland is expected to sign the legislation once the House and Senate work out minor differences. It includes

sweeping procedural changes for prosecuting criminals in Ohio, particularly new uniform standards for preserving DNA evidence in homicide and sexual assault cases.

The bill also creates incentives for police to videotape interrogations in cases of serious crime. It revises procedures for police lineups and eyewitness photo identification, so the officer overseeing the process doesn't know who among the sample pool is the suspect.

Anyone charged with a felony would be required to submit DNA samples, which could be destroyed after five years in cases of guilty or no-contest pleas. The measure also expands Ohio's post-conviction DNA testing law to permit testing during the parole phase of the criminal justice cycle.

The law enforcement cost of collecting and retaining DNA evidence for decades was a sticking point for a handful of opponents, as was concern over civil liberties.

But most lawmakers were unified behind the hard-won changes as a positive development for the public and police.

The reforms aim to prevent miscarriages of justice that would steal years from too many lives by putting the wrong person behind bars for a crime that another committed.

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