Evidence testing measure amended, advanced

A bill was amended and advanced from general file March 3 that would allow incarcerated individuals to request that a court reconsider evidence used in their trials.

Introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, LB245 would allow a person in custody to request DNA testing of previously tested material if current technology could provide more accurate or probative results. Currently material can be retested only if a court determines that such forensic testing did not exist at the time of the trial.

Pansing Brooks said the bill would clarify language in the Nebraska DNA Testing Act to give more options to people who feel they were wrongly convicted.

“We need to make sure justice is done and that we are not keeping innocent people in prison,” she said.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who introduced the Nebraska DNA Testing Act in 2001, supported the bill. Lawmakers should always be attentive to scientific innovation and update laws accordingly, he said.

“We should never object to research and development, and, where necessary, experimentation,” Chambers said.

A Judiciary Committee amendment added provisions from LB244, also introduced by Pansing Brooks. Adopted 35-0, the amendment allows motions for new trials to be filed whenever new non-DNA evidence is discovered. Currently, motions may be filed only within three years of a verdict when based on discovery of new non-DNA evidence.

Hastings Sen. Les Seiler said the amendment and bill are important to ensure statutes keep pace with scientific progress.

“We need to catch up with science,” he said.

Senators advanced the amended bill to select file on a 35-0 vote.

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