Legislature(2009 - 2010)

2010-01-27 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

2010-01-27                     Senate Journal                      Page 1325
SB 241                                                                                                                        
SENATE BILL NO. 241 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                                                                               
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                                                                           
             "An Act relating to post-conviction DNA testing, to                                                               
             the preservation of certain evidence, and to the DNA                                                              
             identification registration system; relating to post-                                                             
          conviction relief procedures; relating to                                                                             
          representation by the public defender; amending Rule                                                                  
          35.1, Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure; and                                                                         
          providing for an effective date."                                                                                     
was read the first time and referred to the Judiciary and Finance                                                               
The following fiscal information was published today:                                                                           
 Fiscal Note No. 1, zero, Department of Public Safety                                                                           
 Fiscal Note No. 2, zero, Department of Administration                                                                          
 Fiscal Note No. 3, zero, Department of Corrections                                                                             
 Fiscal Note No. 4, zero, Department of Administration                                                                          
 Fiscal Note No. 5, Department of Law                                                                                           
Governor's transmittal letter dated January 25:                                                                                 
Dear President Stevens:                                                                                                         

2010-01-27                     Senate Journal                      Page 1326
Under the authority of Art. III, Sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I                                                         
am transmitting a bill that adopts procedures for post-conviction                                                               
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing and evidence retention.                                                                     
This bill will adopt standards for evidence retention and disposal. As                                                          
well as procedures for post conviction DNA testing and address                                                                  
changes in the DNA identification registration system.                                                                          
The United States Supreme Court recently upheld Alaska's post-                                                                  
conviction procedures against a challenge based on due process of the                                                           
law. In the District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District v.                                                       
Osborne, 129 S. Ct. 2308 (2009), the court found Alaska's post-                                                                 
conviction relief statutes and procedures to be constitutional. While                                                           
our current law is legally satisfactory, provide statutory guidance for                                                         
granting post-conviction DNA testing will allow policy makers to                                                                
adopt the most reasonable balance for ensuring that a person is not                                                             
mistakenly convicted, and at the same time will protect the vast                                                                
majority of convictions that are correct.                                                                                       
A person who has been convicted of a crime, and whose conviction                                                                
has been upheld on appeal, has already had adequate opportunity to                                                              
argue legal issues arising at trial and on appeal. The post-conviction                                                          
DNA testing procedure should be limited to cases where the person                                                               
reasonably claims that the wrong person was convicted. The bill                                                                 
provides for post-conviction DNA testing when there is a reasonable                                                             
probability that the testing would produce evidence that could                                                                  
conclusively establish that the applicant is innocent.                                                                          
The bill addresses retention of physical evidence and biological                                                                
material in homicide, sexual assault, and abuse cases, and provides                                                             
standards that may vary according to the community and the law                                                                  
enforcement resources of that community. A small community may be                                                               
unable to retain large items of evidence in a criminal prosecution, but                                                         
it can preserve samples of the evidence for use in future DNA testing                                                           
or other post-conviction procedures. A larger community may have                                                                
more space for evidence retention, and would be able to keep more of                                                            
the original evidence rather than cutting representative samples of it.                                                         
The bill also includes a procedure in which a law enforcement agency,                                                           
after giving notice to all parties, may dispose of physical evidence and                                                        
biological material if there is no objection to the disposition.                                                                

2010-01-27                     Senate Journal                      Page 1327
In addition to keeping evidence so that it may be used at a later date,                                                         
law enforcement and other agencies, such as courts and prosecution                                                              
offices, must safeguard it so that it is useful for possible future testing.                                                    
The bill authorizes the establishment of a task force to include law                                                            
enforcement, prosecutors, the court system, a representative from the                                                           
crime laboratory, and the medical examiner to develop policies and                                                              
procedures for maintaining evidence in a way that will protect and                                                              
safeguard against tampering or degradation. Standards for evidence                                                              
collection and retention will be established as well.                                                                           
Although the Alaska post-conviction law has been upheld by the                                                                  
United States Supreme Court, standards for evidence retention and a                                                             
procedure for post-conviction DNA testing will strengthen the current                                                           
law and provide one more protection in our justice system.                                                                      
I urge your prompt and favorable consideration of this bill.                                                                    
Sean Parnell