Senate Approves Rules on DNA Testing
By Carlos Campos, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 03/29/03
Legislation making it easier for people wrongly convicted of
violent crimes to prove their innocence through DNA testing unanimously
passed the state Senate on Friday.
"This makes sure the right people are in jail and makes
sure no innocent person will ever suffer the state's most severe
punishment," said Kristi Huller, a spokeswoman for Lt. Gov.
Mark Taylor, who pushed the bill. "We think this will enhance
public confidence that the judicial system is just."
The state has no protocol for granting post-conviction DNA testing.
The bill, which now goes to the House, would give judges guidelines
for deciding whether to allow a new trial based on DNA evidence.
Under the measure, a person convicted of one of Georgia's "seven
deadly sins" -- including murder, rape, kidnapping and armed
robbery -- would be able to petition for a new trial after four
conditions are met: if the identity of the defendant was an issue
at trial, if reliable results can be extracted from existing evidence,
if it is reasonable to believe results of DNA testing would have
affected the trial's outcome and if the evidence was not previously
Judges would determine whether the test's cost would be borne
by the defendant or by local governments.
Also, defendants are generally given only one opportunity to
ask for a new trial, and they must do it within 30 days of their
conviction. Under the bill, that time limit would be waived if
DNA evidence came into play.
There are about 13,000 people in the Georgia prison system convicted
of one of seven violent crimes.
DNA testing, which uses the "genetic fingerprint" that
uniquely identifies a person, has gained ground as evidence in
courtrooms only over the past decade.
"This is a bill that allows the law to catch up with technology,"
said Sen. David Adelman (D-Decatur), who sponsored the bill on