A groundbreaking piece of legislation that would update investigative practices used by law enforcement agencies statewide has passed out of committee and is headed for a vote by the full Ohio House. State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D-Walnut Hills), chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, announced today that Substitute Senate Bill 77 was approved. The committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill.
Under the bill, Ohio would adopt the so-called "best practices" policies nationwide in law enforcement investigative techniques.
The changes would include requiring police officers to perform photographic and in-person lineups in a "double-blind fashion," meaning the officer that shows photographs to the witness doesn’t know the identity of the suspect under investigation. Research shows eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction and was at fault in all eight DNA exonerations in Ohio.
Also, the bill provides incentives for officers to videotape all interrogations of suspects, which is intended to improve the interrogation process and reduce the risk of false confessions. Further, it mandates the preservation of DNA collected by the police in most cases of homicide or sexual assault.
The preservation requirement stems from a Columbus Dispatch and Ohio Innocence Project study in 2008 that revealed in nearly two-thirds of cases in which inmates requested DNA to prove their innocence the police had lost or destroyed the DNA after the inmate was convicted.
This week’s issue of CityBeat features an article about recent advancements and controversies in criminal forensics, including the creation of “false DNA.”