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ACT SUMMARY 2007-2008


ACT NO. 60


Criminal procedures; petition for postconviction DNA testing; compensation for wrongful convictions; preservation of evidence, and eyewitness identification and custodial interrogation study committees

This act allows a person convicted of a felony to file a petition requesting forensic DNA testing of any evidence which may contain biological evidence that was obtained during the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If the person’s conviction resulted from a plea agreement, the petition may not be filed until after July 1, 2008. The court is required to grant the petition and order DNA testing if it finds that a reasonable probability exists that the petitioner would not have been convicted or would have received a lesser sentence for the crime which the petitioner claims to be innocent of if the results of the requested DNA testing had been available to the trier of fact at the time of the original prosecution. If the results of the testing support the petitioner’s claim that he or she did not commit the crime for which he or she was convicted, the court may order such relief as it deems appropriate, including setting aside or vacating the petitioner’s judgment of conviction, granting the petitioner a new trial, granting the petitioner a new sentencing hearing, or discharging the petitioner from custody.

The act permits a person who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime of which the person was exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence to bring an action against the state for compensation. The claimant is entitled to judgment in the action if he or she establishes each of the following by a preponderance of the evidence:

(1) The claimant was convicted of a crime, sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and served all or any part of the sentence.

(2) As a result of DNA evidence:

(A) The claimant’s conviction was reversed or vacated, the claimant’s information or indictment was dismissed, or the claimant was acquitted after a second or subsequent trial; or

(B) The claimant was pardoned for the crime for which he or she was sentenced.

(3) DNA evidence establishes that the claimant did not commit the crime for which he or she was sentenced.

(4) The claimant did not fabricate evidence or commit or suborn perjury during any proceedings related to the crime with which he or she was charged.

A claimant who receives a judgment is entitled to damages in an amount to be determined by the trier of fact for each year the claimant was incarcerated, provided that the amount of damages shall not be less than $30,000.00 nor greater than $60,000.00 for each year the claimant was incarcerated, adjusted proportionally for partial years served. A copy of the law establishing this right of action must be provided to a person whenever the court receives notice of a pardon or exonerates a person on the basis of DNA evidence, and the action must be brought within three years after the pardon is granted or the person is exonerated.

The act creates a committee to study issues related to the preservation of evidence in criminal cases, and a committee to study issues related to best practices regarding eyewitness identification procedures and audio and audiovisual recording of custodial interrogations.

Effective Date: July 1, 2007

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont