Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced this evening that they have reached an agreement on expanding the state’s DNA databank. The deal means New York will be the first state in the country with an “all crimes” DNA database. DNA samples will be collected from anyone convicted of a felony or penal law misdemeanor.
In response to concerns among the Democrat-controlled Assembly, the compromise bill includes provisions that expand defendants’ access to DNA testing and comparison before and after conviction in appropriate circumstances, as well as post-conviction discovery to demonstrate innocence.
Cuomo included the proposal for an all-crimes database in his budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which starts April 1.
This is a statement from Cuomo:
“It is a proven fact: DNA helps solve crimes, prosecute the guilty, and protects the innocent. This bill will greatly improve law enforcement’s ability to keep New York communities safe and bring justice to victims of violent crimes, as well as those who have been wrongly convicted. For too long, a limiting factor to our ability to solve crimes through DNA was the fact the law did not encompass all crimes. This new law will right those wrongs. I commend Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver for their leadership on this issue and thank the members of the Legislature for putting New Yorkers first.”
Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, R-Nassau County, said DNA is the “21st Century equivalent of a fingerprint and the most powerful law enforcement tool to catch and prosecute criminals and protect victims.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the database “provides for more fair and equal access to DNA testing and the Databank for those who are wrongly charged with and convicted of crimes.
“When a person is wrongly convicted, the real perpetrator is allowed to remain free and potentially commit other crimes. Therefore, in addition to expanding the DNA Databank to help identify the true criminal, this legislation will, for the first time, provide wrongly convicted defendants with a fair opportunity to prove their innocence,” he said.
The DNA Databank was launched in 1996 in the state. DNA has been used for more than 2,900 convictions and has exonerated 27 individuals and “countless suspects cleared early on in investigations,” the governor’s office said.