Legislation drafted by the Boston Bar Association, Senate Bill
1987, An Act to Provide Access to Scientific and Forensic Analysis, today
was passed unanimously by the Senate. Sparked by the BBA's 2009 report -- Getting
It Right: Improving the Accuracy and Reliability of the Criminal Justice System
in Massachusetts -- this legislation has been a major public policy
priority of the BBA.
The bill allows convicted people to seek DNA testing on evidence that could
prove their innocence, creating a straightforward procedure for obtaining
post-conviction forensic and scientific testing of evidence in cases of possible
wrongful conviction. It also establishes a process for prosecutors to
ensure the reliability and materiality of this evidence in identifying the
perpetrator, and for judges to conduct a focused and discrete inquiry to assess
Today's Senate vote puts Massachusetts on the path to avoiding the dubious
distinction of being the last state in the country without a statutory mechanism
for persons claiming innocence to gain access to DNA evidence. When
passed, this legislation will dramatically reduce the time and complexity for
handling these cases.
Members of the BBA Task Force were in the Senate gallery watching the debate
unfold. On the Senate floor Senator Cynthia Creem recognized Betty Ann
Waters, a woman who decided to become a lawyer for the sole purpose of proving
her brother's innocence. Ms. Waters was able to locate DNA evidence that
ultimately exonerated her brother.