DNA plan could simplify post-conviction testing
No one with any sense of justice would deny an accused person the means to prove their innocence, but Pennsylvania lawmakers say their state needs a system to govern how DNA tests are applied and used in court.
We applaud that sentiment, but as the use of this technology becomes more widespread, lawmakers must also look again at whether defendants can be compelled to provide DNA samples without violating the U.S. Constitution's protections against self-incrimination.
The DNA issue arose when the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, Stewart J. Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, introduced a bill to allow for defendants to petition for a new trial if genetic testing yielded new information that might clear them.
In support of the bill, the committee heard emotional testimony from Willie Nesmith, a 38-year-old man who spent 15 years in prison on a rape conviction until a DNA test showed he was innocent.