The wrongly convicted deserve their day in court

December 03, 2009

A wrongly convicted person is entitled to a day in court to present newly discovered evidence. ("Fight brewing over 'innocence' law," Nov. 29.)

Under the legislation that we successfully sponsored, two conditions must be met before a hearing is held on a writ of innocence. The evidence could not have been discovered within one year of sentencing, and it must create a substantial or significant possibility that the verdict may have been different. This legal standard for reviewing such requests was first adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1989.

We have agreed to make the following changes in the law: A hearing can be sought only for felony convictions, and notice and an opportunity to be heard must be provided to both the state and the victims.

A confession of guilt by a third party might not take place until long after the conviction of an innocent person. Prior to now, if exculpatory evidence became available more than a year after the sentencing of a wrongly convicted individual, two people could serve time for the same offense.

Our legislation reduces the likelihood of that miscarriage of justice without overburdening our court system.Sen. Delores G. Kelley and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, Annapolis

The writers are Democrats representing Baltimore County and City, respectively.

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