A report by the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations shows that DNA evidence has led to more than 600 convictions to be overturned nationwide. One would think that if DNA tests could provide evidence that might exonerate someone facing a death penalty, it would automatically be allowed to form part of any other post-conviction matters. However, even if DNA testing is available, prosecutors might not allow submission of evidence for DNA testing.
The Supreme Court says the constitutional right to have evidence tested for DNA only applies to defendants in criminal cases before the trial. Once a person is convicted, he or she no longer has access to the evidence held by the prosecution. An example of such a case is a man whose scheduled execution date is next month, and despite his ongoing claims of innocence in the 1998 murder, prosecutors have so far refused to allow any DNA testing of the murder weapon or any other evidence.
However, certain circumstances might allow DNA analysis after the conviction — depending on the jurisdiction and its standards related to post-conviction DNA testing. There might be strict time limits for filing requests for such testing after new evidence was discovered. The court might also want to see conclusive proof that shows that the outcome would have been different had the DNA evidence been available at the initial trial,.
Convicts in Michigan who learn that new evidence might provide DNA evidence to prove their innocence may be unsure of how to proceed. The sensible thing would be to consult with a criminal defense attorney who has experience in dealing with post-conviction matters. A lawyer can take the necessary action within the allowed time limit and work to get a conviction overturned or changed.