Legislation enabling convicted criminals to request DNA testing of evidence in their cases has been approved by the State Senate. House Bill 1068, by Sen. Jim Halligan and Rep. Lee Denney, would enable those convicted of violent crimes and sentenced to 25 years or more to request DNA testing of evidence. The measure was approved unanimously on Wednesday.
Halligan said he worked with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation as well as Oklahoma County Public Defender Bob Ravitz on the legislation and with Sen. Anthony Sykes, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He noted Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that does not have a post-conviction DNA law.
“More than 300 people have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing in this country, including 11 here in Oklahoma,” said Halligan, R-Stillwater.
“Not only can DNA testing ensure justice for those wrongfully convicted, but just as importantly, it can lead authorities to the person who actually committed the crime—that’s exactly what’s happened in almost half of those exonerations.”
Eyewitness misidentification, faulty forensic testing, false confessions and incriminating statements are among the factors that led to wrongful convictions that were later overturned through DNA testing.
HB 1068 permits a person who asserts he was wrongly convicted to file a petition with the sentencing court to request DNA testing and provides guidance for that court to determine if post-conviction testing will be granted.
“I believe the current system can be improved and that is clearly shown by the fact that we are the last state to embrace this type of legislation,” said Denney, R-Cushing. “I am proud of the support the bill has received this session.”
The measure now returns to the House for consideration of Senate amendments and then will be sent to the governor for approval.