Two years after a Boston Bar Association work group issued recommendations for preventing wrongful convictions, both the Massachusetts Senate and House have passed legislation providing for access to post-conviction forensic analysis. The legislation was drafted by the BBA Task Force on Preventing Wrongful Convictions and filed this legislative session by Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative John Fernandes.
"Today is a great day for Massachusetts," said BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart. "When the task force began its work in 2008, the Commonwealth was one of just four states without a statutory right of post-conviction access to DNA evidence. In working on this legislation, we have had the benefit of the experiences in other states, and this bill represents a long-overdue step towards a stronger and fairer criminal justice system for the Commonwealth."
Given the role DNA testing has played in exonerating innocent but wrongly convicted people, the legislation now on its way to the Governor's desk was the most important recommendation of the BBA task force. The task force was appointed by then BBA President Kathy Weinman, and co-chaired by Martin F. Murphy, a partner at Foley Hoag, and David Meier, a partner at Todd & Weld, and included a broad range of professionals from both ends of the criminal justice spectrum, including prosecutors and defense attorneys.
"This legislation is a victory for justice, but it's also a win for public safety," added Goodheart. "When the wrong person is convicted, a criminal remains at large, free to commit additional crimes against other victims."
Goodheart credited the strong leadership of the Senate and House throughout the process that led to today's result.
The Boston Bar Association is a non-profit, voluntary membership organization of 10,000 attorneys drawn from private practice, corporations, government agencies, legal aid organizations, the courts, and law schools. It traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, the lawyer who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the second president of the United States.