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Senate Appropriations Chairman Says Exoneration Of Innocent Man Points To Need For More Reaources

Appropriations Chairman Kelly Haney on the Senate Floor. Appropriations Chairman Kelly Haney on the Senate Floor.

OKLAHOMA CITY - If not for last year's legislation calling for a $250,000 appropriation for DNA testing, Jeffrey Todd Pierce would likely still be behind bars for a rape he never committed. The total appropriation for the coming fiscal year for that program will be almost triple that amount.

"This was a tragedy. I cannot tell you how overwhelmed I felt looking at the pictures of this young man and his family. His children do not even know him. If we hadn't passed the Forensic Testing Program and the $250,000 to fund it, he'd still be in prison," said Senator Haney. "The question is, how many more like Jeffrey Pierce are there? We have a moral obligation to find out."

Haney, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee says he will work to ensure the investigation into cases involving Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist is properly funded. Jeffrey Pierce was convicted based on her testimony that hairs left at the crime scene were his. DNA evidence later proved Pierce was not the rapist.

"So far, I understand the OSBI and the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System have identified 1694 cases involving Gilchrist that may need DNA testing. Think about it. If only half of those turned out to be convicted based on inaccurate or fraudulent testimony, we're talking about potentially over 800 innocent people behind bars; 800 families ripped apart for crimes their loved ones did not commit," said Haney.

"At this point it looks like the legislature will be appropriating about $725,000 to cover costs for the attorneys, investigators and lab work that must be done. That's on top of the $250,000 we'd already put in the General Appropriation Bill passed earlier this session. No doubt there are some people who would argue this is a waste of money, or that we can't afford it. But knowing what we know, how can we afford not to do this? We've got to find the truth," said Senator Haney.

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Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605