Albany’s “three men in a room” are watching one another closely, for any sign of double dealing when it comes to the double helix.
They’re in what appears to be the final stage of negotiations, for expanding New York’s DNA database to include everyone convicted of any crime- not just the felons forced to give up their biological “fingerprint” now.
Assembly Democrats have until now been at odds with (Governor) Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno… The governor and the Republican leader have wanted to expand it to all misdemeanors. Currently the database, in place since 2000, holds samples from people convicted of any felony and a few misdemeanors.
Just days ago, Assembly Democrats introduced a counter proposal. They would agree to the expansion if the others consented to allow more protections for the wrongfully convicted. (Speaker Sheldon) Silver wants to establish an independent commission to review cases and to give defendants a three-year window to file a post-conviction appeal for DNA evidence rather than one year, as the governor proposed.
Senate leader Bruno also seems agreeable to an “innocence commission,” so it appears there’s been a breakthrough. And state legislators, at hearings today, are expected to hear some powerful arguments in favor of expanding the database from The Innocence Project. That’s the New York City-based legal group that recently got Roy Brown, the CNY man wrongly convicted of murder, released from prison on the basis of DNA evidence.
Now there’s little doubt that DNA sampling will become an even more routine part of the legal process. Everyone acknowledges that some innocent people will be put in the database. But they could later have their records removed, or- in extreme miscarriages of justice like the Brown case- actually regain their freedom because they were forced to give up that sample.