Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

February 11, 2013

Senate unanimous: DNA bill ‘matter of justice’

FRANKFORT —  The Kentucky Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday that would allow those in prison to seek DNA testing to prove their innocence.

Senate Bill 23’s sponsor, Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said the bill “is a matter of justice.”

According to the Innocence Project, a national organization affiliated with the Benjamin Cardoza School of Law, Yeshiva University in New York, 302 serving felony prison time have been proven innocent using DNA testing.

Currently under Kentucky law, only those on death row can seek to have their convictions overturned using the DNA testing technology.

Schickel’s bill makes a concession to prosecutors who want to exclude those who plead guilty or take an Alford Plea, something Schickel said he’d prefer not to do, but was willing to accept because passage of the amended bill is a significant improvement over the current law.

Some senators, like Robin Webb, D-Grayson, objected to the change, but in the end voted for the bill for the same reason – that it nonetheless represents a major improvement. Webb argues an Alford Plea is maintaining one’s innocence.

(An Alford Plea allows a defendant to avoid pleading guilty while recognizing the weight of the evidence is likely enough to convict him. Usually in such cases, an Alford Plea has been negotiated in return for a lighter sentence.)

In explaining her floor vote Monday, Webb said the bill “is not perfect but it is a great, great start.”

Another Democratic Senator, Kathy Stein of Lexington, shares Webb’s concerns, but like Webb voted for Schickel’s bill. She said it serves the interests of justice.

“If we have a person in prison who is innocent of a crime, that means the true perpetrator is still on the loose,” Stein said.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, also spoke in favor of the bill, noting he was an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for the first five years of his legal career.

Others, like the state’s chief Public Advocate, Ed Monahan, and Joe Blaney of the Innocence Project, contend there are times when an innocent defendant nonetheless agrees to plead guilty – for a variety of reasons, usually to avoid an even longer or harsher sentence.

Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, has a similar bill in the House which does not include the exceptions of guilty or Alford pleas. He has sponsored such a bill in the past but couldn’t get it passed in the Senate.

Bell said Monday afternoon his bill will receive a hearing Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. He said he understands prosecutors concerns about some guilty pleas but he doesn’t understand the exception for Alford Pleas.

The final Senate vote was 38-0 in favor of the bill.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks