Monday, April 05, 2010

Strickland Signs Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

Today, Governor Strickland signed into law Senate Bill 77, which provides for significant reforms in three key areas of criminal law and procedure in Ohio:

  • Eyewitness identifications: Law enforcement agencies are now required to adopt "double-blind" identification procedures, which means that the officer who conducts a lineup (whether "live" or via photographic array) is unaware of the identity of the target suspect. A court must take into consideration failure to comply when considering a motion to disallow the identification at trial, and if it permits testimony regarding the identification, must instruct the jury that it may consider the noncompliance.
  • Custodial interrogations: If law enforcement agencies record interrogations from start to finish in the most serious crimes, confessions will be presumptively voluntary. (However, the failure to make such recordings is not grounds for suppression or inadmissibility.)
  • DNA: SB 77 expands the mechanisms available for convicted felons to obtain DNA testing and requires the preservation of DNA evidence in all serious crimes. The law also requires the collection of a DNA specimen from anyone arrested for a felony offense.
The signing ceremony today was the culmination of years of work by the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. The national Innocence Project's blog post on the new law can be found here.

The legislation was supported by (I believe) the entire southwest Ohio delegation to the House and Senate. Local legislators who provided important leadership on this law include Eric Kearney; Tyrone Yates (now of the Hamilton County Municipal Court); Connie Pillich; and Bill Seitz.

The Enquirer's coverage of the law (which I read only after drafting this post) is here.

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