NCIP has been successful in influencing public policy to create a more fair legal environment.  Here are some examples of our recent work in this area.

SB 980

On September 25, 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 980, sponsored by the Northern California Innocence Project and others, which will improve the process for wrongfully convicted prisoners to obtain DNA testing. The bill, authored by Sen. Ted Lieu, gives prisoners improved access to the physical and biological evidence preserved in their cases and clarifies the procedures for obtaining DNA testing in California. The bill makes the following specific improvements to inmates’ access to DNA evidence:

  • Requires law enforcement agencies to provide information about the existence of biological evidence, such as whether it has been destroyed or preserved;
  • Extends the period of time inmates and their counsel have to respond to a notice of evidence destruction from 90 days to 180 days, and further extends the time for requesting DNA testing from six months to one year;
  • Enables courts to order the relevant government agency to search the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database for a match in order to find the true perpetrator, in the event that the DNA test is granted and the results exclude the convicted person.

Over 300 exonerations in the United States have been based on DNA evidence, with at least eight in California, including NCIP client Johnny Williams, exonerated in 2013. Read more here.

SB 1058

Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1058 into law on September 26, 2014, the second of two bills sponsored by NCIP to be signed this year which aid the wrongfully convicted. Authored by Sen. Mark Leno, SB 1058 will help exonerate innocent men and women who have been wrongfully convicted based on outdated expert testimony. It will help assure people wrongfully convicted based on such testimony can have their conviction overturned when the expert later admits he or she was wrong, or when new science proves the testimony wrong. Read more here.

SB 569 & SB618

In 2013 NCIP was instrumental in passing two crucial pieces of California legislation that were signed by Governor Brown. The first bill, SB 569, sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu, helps to prevent false confessions of juveniles accused of murder by requiring that police departments videotape these interrogations.

The second bill, SB 618, sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno, streamlines the process for the wrongfully convicted to receive compensation for their erroneous conviction. We are especially proud to note that two NCIP exonerees, Maurice Caldwell and Franky Carrillo, traveled to Sacramento to urge state representatives to pass these bills. Our exonerees are becoming powerful and effective advocates.

Reforming Eyewitness Identification Practices in California

Nearly 200 people attended the Northern California Innocence Project’s (NCIP) Eyewitness Identification Best Practices Symposium at the University of San Francisco (USF) on May 21, 2014. The symposium, sponsored by a Flom Incubator Grant from the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, brought together police chiefs, district attorneys, social scientists and criminal justice reform advocates to discuss best practices for eyewitness identification procedures in California, and inspired some jurisdictions to make changes to their existing procedures.

Hosted by NCIP at Santa Clara University School of Law and the International Institute of Criminal Justice Leadership at USF School of Law, the symposium featured an impressive lineup of speakers. Read more here.