Inmate DNA bill clears Nevada Legislature committee

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The bill that would allow prison inmates to get evidence in their cases DNA tested was passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Friday, surviving the deadline for committee approval of legislation.

Assemblyman Justin Watkins, D-Las Vegas, introduced AB268 saying it would make it much easier for inmates to get those tests done.

Inmate Advocate Tonya Brown said there are a number of inmates who want the testing done, saying it will clear them of the crime they were convicted of.

Current statute requires defendants to prove the evidence is material to their case to get a judge’s order to conduct the test. The bill would remove that requirement and have the judge order the testing if the inmate can pay for it.

Those tests can cost as much as $600.

Watkins said during the hearing on the bill it levels the playing field because, under existing rules, the prosecution has access to testing without getting a court order but, at present, the defendant doesn’t.

Inmate advocates urged allowing inmates to select the lab of their choice to do those tests saying some defendants don’t trust the labs run by Nevada law enforcement.

Watkins said the bill was amended to delay implementation of the program until the two laboratories in Nevada can contract with at least two outside labs. He said unless those contracts are in place with outside labs, the FBI won’t accept the results of the test into their database. He said if the tests are done and clear an inmate of guilt in a crime, officials want the DNA results put into the national database so the real criminal can be found.

He pointed out there is no fiscal cost to AB268 since the inmate or his backers will pay for the tests.

The bill goes to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.


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