Request for DNA Testing by Criminal Defendant Improperly Denied


Exoneration. Anyone who turned on a television in the past six months or watches the news knows that people are in prison who could not have done the crime for which he or she was convicted. Exoneration based on DNA evidence has caused such a rift in the criminal justice system that everyone from legislators to judges are rethinking how we prosecute and handle crime. Even individuals who have plead guilty were found to have been factually innocent. Part of the realization culminated in changes in the New York Criminal Procedure Law, the CPL. Defendants have the ability to request DNA testing in certain instances, even if that person signed a confession or, yes, plead guilty to a crime. This case comes by way of appeal because such a DNA testing request was improperly denied.

The defendant's motion pursuant to CPL 440.30 (1-a) for forensic DNA testing was not procedurally barred by his failure to seek that relief in prior motions pursuant to CPL 440.10. "[T]here is no time limit for bringing a postconviction motion requesting the performance of forensic DNA testing. A defendant may move for DNA testing pursuant to CPL 440.30 (1-a) at any time" (People v Pitts, 4 NY3d 303, 311 [2005]).

The New York Criminal Defendant here claims he was innocent and the prosecution opposed the individual's motion. The Court notes that "[T]he defendant does not bear the burden of showing that the specified DNA evidence exists and is available in suitable quantities to make testing feasible. To the contrary, it is the People, as the gatekeeper of the evidence, who must show what evidence exists and whether the evidence is available for testing" (People v Pitts, 4 NY3d at 311). "[A] conclusory assertion that the evidence no longer exists is legally insufficient" (People v West, 41 AD3d 884, 885 [2007]; see People v Pitts, 4 NY3d at 309, 312). Accordingly, we remit the matter for further proceedings to ascertain whether the subject DNA evidence exists and, if it does, for forensic DNA testing of that evidence (see People v Pitts, 4 NY3d at 309; People v West, 41 AD3d at 885; cf. People v Williams, 130 AD3d 949, 950 [2015]).

As one could imagine, the reason we have this procedure is so that we do not falsely incarcerate someone accused of a crime and, now, someone convicted of a crime. “Here, the defendant established that if forensic DNA testing had been conducted on two blood samples, a bloody sweater, and fingernail scrapings of the decedent, if any, recovered by the police from the crime scene, and if the results of such testing had been admitted at trial, there exists a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been more favorable to him ... . However, with respect to the defendant’s request for forensic DNA testing of hair and fibers, the defendant failed to demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been more favorable to him had DNA testing results of those items been admitted into evidence ..."

The Court grants the Motion. The case is People v. Robinson, 2017 NY Slip Op 00665 [147 AD3d 784] (App. Div. Second Dep't., Feb 1. 2017).


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