Criminal Justice Reforms Debated by Senate Committee

Making sure that criminal justice procedures are as accurate as possible to prevent wrongful convictions is the purpose of a bill heard this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sponsored by Senator Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis), SB 162 would establish uniform procedures to be used for eyewitness identification, jailhouse informant testimony, post-conviction DNA testing and procedures for custodial interrogations.The reforms included in SB 162 were part of recommendations that came from a recent two-year study by an assessment team of Missouri judges, lawyers and law professors commissioned by the American Bar Association to examine the fairness and accuracy of the state’s death penalty system.

Among the witnesses who testified in support of the bill was Kevin Green, a Mid-Missouri resident who spent 16 years in a California prison for a murder he did not commit. Green was convicted on the basis of faulty eye witness testimony. He was eventually exonerated by DNA evidence not available at the time of his conviction.

When testifying in support of the bill, the MCC noted that wrongful convictions do not bring justice to the victims of the crime or improve public safety in the community. The MCC urged that the common sense procedures in the bill be enacted.

The Judiciary Committee took no action on the bill.

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