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Post-Conviction DNA Testing

Monday, 6 March 2017

by Staff, Spaulding Law

Shows like Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” have brought post-conviction DNA testing to the public eye. Steven Avery was exonerated by DNA evidence after serving 18 years for sexual assault and attempted murder. Utah state law 78B-9-301 provides a specific set of standards, after a person is convicted of a crime, to have their DNA retested. They can then be cleared of the charges if the DNA can establish factual innocence. The Utah State Legislature is currently considering a bill (SB0076) that would modify the requirements to obtain this testing and the threshold to overturn a conviction.

SB0076 amends the current law to provide that the new DNA evidence only has to establish, by a reasonable probability, that the individual would not have been convicted, or would have received a lesser sentence, rather than requiring that the evidence will establish factual innocence. Under the current law, a convicted individual can send a petition to the court to request DNA testing. The Utah attorney general then has an opportunity to respond to the petition before the court makes a determination. This proposed bill would give the convicted individual an additional opportunity to reply to the Utah attorney general's response before the court makes a determination regarding allowing the testing.

The hope with this bill is to make these tests more accessible and help those wrongly convicted. The bill has a fiscal note of $40,000, but it is argued that this cost has the ability to save the state of Utah much more. In the case of Making a Murderer, Steven Avery sued Manitowoc County for $36 million for his wrongful conviction. Ultimately, Steven Avery settled for far less largely due to several unique circumstances. Utah, along with approximately 28 other states have compensation laws for the wrongfully convicted. In Utah, the compensation is currently $40,000 for each year of incarceration with a maximum of 15 years.

This information is made available by Spaulding Law for educational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Spaulding Law, unless you have entered into a separate representation agreement. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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