ROCKY MOUNTAIN INNOCENCE CENTER’S POLICY ADVOCACY

Although RMIC’s primary mission is to bring the innocent home from prison, we are also deeply involved in educating policymakers on criminal justice reform. Our goals are three-fold: First, to provide mechanisms for our clients to get back into court to tell their stories of innocence; second, to promote legislation that will compensate the innocent for the years they lost while wrongfully convicted; and finally, to advocate for reforms that will prevent the innocent from going to prison in the first place. We have had great legislative and policy success in all three of our target jurisdictions, and will continue to work on criminal justice reform for the benefit of our clients.

NEVADA

Petition requesting genetic marker analysis by person convicted of felony–Post-Conviction Testing of Genetic Marker – N.R.S 176.0918

      1. Existing law provided that a person convicted of a crime and sentenced to death could petition a court to conduct post-conviction DNA testing to prove a credible claim of innocence. RMIC was integral to passing an amendment to the law allowing any person who is convicted of a serious felony and under any sentence of imprisonment, regardless of whether he/she is under a sentence of death, to petition the court for post-conviction DNA testing.

Preservation of Evidence – N.R.S. 176.0912

      1. As destruction of evidence makes post-conviction DNA testing impossible, RMIC advocated that the NV legislature pass this law providing that when a defendant is convicted of a serious felony, all biological evidence secured in connection with the investigation or prosecution of the defendant must be preserved until the defendant’s sentence expires.

Recording of Interrogations – Assembly Bill 107 (passed Assembly and Senate; awaiting governor’s signature)

      1. Along with the Innocence Project, RMIC consulted on this law that requires law enforcement agencies to adopt detailed, written policies regarding the electronic recording of custodial interrogations that are conducted in a place of detention. This protects both law enforcement and the accused from the possibility of false confessions.

Compensation – Assembly Bill 267 (passed Assembly; awaiting Senate vote)

      1. Working with the Innocence Project, RMIC, with deeply important testimony from our exoneree, DeMarlo Berry, was involved in passing this law allowing a person who was wrongfully convicted to bring an action for compensation, including damages and other relief.

Factual Innocence – Assembly Bill 356 (passed Assembly unanimously; awaiting Senate vote)

      1. Working with the Innocence Project, other collaborators and a working group including the prosecution community, RMIC supported this law which establishes provisions relating to the filing of a petition for a hearing to establish the factual innocence of a person based on newly discovered evidence.

UTAH

Post-Conviction DNA Testing Statute — Utah Code Ann. §78b-9-300 to 304

      1. RMIC consulted on this law that was sponsored by the Statewide Association of Prosecutors creating a process for individuals to petition a court for post-conviction DNA testing.
      2. At RMIC’s request, the law was amended to clarify the requirements to obtain post-conviction DNA testing by providing that the new evidence only need establish by a “reasonable probability” that the petitioner would not have been convicted, or would have received a lesser sentence, rather than requiring that the evidence conclusively establish factual innocence.
      3. At RMIC’s request, language in the statute prohibiting the court from ordering post-conviction DNA testing when defendant’s attorney failed to request testing at the time of trial for “tactical” reasons was repealed.

Post-Conviction Determination of Factual Innocence — Utah Code Ann. §78b-9-400 to 405

      1. In a collaborative effort with the Utah Attorney General’s office, RMIC helped to pass this law that creates a process for individuals to petition a court for a post-conviction determination of factual innocence where DNA is not available.
      2. After the State announced its intention to ask for a repeal of this law, RMIC worked with the Attorney General and the governor’s office to clarify the process for claiming factual innocence.
      3. The State again threatened to lobby to repeal this important legislation and RMIC again stepped up to the plate and helped to further clarify the process for establishing factual innocence when DNA evidence does not exist.

Judgment and Assistance Payment — Utah Code Ann. §78b-9-405

      1. In a collaborative effort with the Utah Attorney General’s office, RMIC helped to draft this law that creates a process for an individual to obtain financial assistance (compensation) if he/she is found to be factually innocent.
      2. The Utah Attorney General’s office amended the statute to provide that both factual innocence claims and assistance payments are extinguished upon the death of the petitioner.
      3. Due to pressure from RMIC and families of exonerees, the statute was again amended to provide that factual innocence claims are not extinguished upon the death of the petitioner and that remaining assistance payments can be made to a surviving spouse if the exoneree dies before the State pays his/her compensation in full.

Eyewitness Identification Reform — Utah Rule of Evidence 617

      1. RMIC and the Innocence Project provided information to the Supreme Court Committee on the Rules of Evidence regarding best practices for eyewitness identification and as a result, the committee passed one of the strongest rules of evidence in the country regarding the admissibility of this type of evidence.

WYOMING

DNA Testing Act — W.S. §7-12-302 to 315

      1. In cooperation with the Wyoming district attorneys, RMIC assisted to draft and pass the law establishing procedures for individuals to request post-conviction DNA testing.

Post-Conviction Determination of Factual Innocence Act – W.S. §7-12-401 to 407

      1. After many years of educating the stake-holders in the criminal justice system about the need for this type of legislation, RMIC worked with the Wyoming Attorney General’s office to pass this law allowing individuals to petition for exoneration based upon newly discovered evidence of factual innocence besides DNA.