9th Circuit rules old DNA evidence may be tested

People convicted of crimes through inconclusive or outdated DNA testing procedures should be allowed new tests using the latest technological advances without regard to a three-year time limit set by law, a federal appeals court ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the first in the nation to rule that the advances in DNA technology mean previously useless samples should be considered newly discovered evidence that is not subject to statutory time limitations.

The three-judge panel acknowledged in its opinion Friday that the ruling could re-open many closed cases to new DNA testing. But the judges say protecting the innocent is paramount, particularly when innocence can be proven by DNA evidence even after a conviction has been made.

“No tradition is more firmly established in our system of law than assuring to the greatest extent that its inevitable errors are made in favor of the guilty rather than against the innocent,” the opinion written by Judge Andrew Kleinfeld read.

The ruling was made in the case of a Montana man who was convicted of attempted sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl in 2006 and sentenced to more than 14 years in prison. His lawyer, who took on the case on behalf of the Montana Innocence Project, said the decision will have a broad effect.

Read full article here July 14, 2015

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