September 15 2019
SALEM, Oregon – There have been almost 500 people exonerated nationally because of DNA evidence from people wrongfully convicted of crimes. However, there have been none in Oregon, where the majority of conviction motions for DNA testing are denied by Oregon courts.
On Tuesday, the Oregon Senate decided barriers needed to be lowered after the Senate unanimously passed a bill that modifies procedures by which person convicted of a felony initiates proceedings to obtain DNA testing.
The Oregon Innocence Project, which championed the bill, thanked senators for making post-conviction DNA testing more accessible for the wrongfully convicted and recognizing the rights of innocent Oregonians.
Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), one of the bill's sponsors, stood on the Senate floor Tuesday and asker other lawmakers to imagine driving to work, their spouse is killed, and they're charged for the crime.
"The worst criminal justice nightmare is occurring in your life because you are going to be going to prison for life for something you did not do. Not only did you lose the love of your life, you are being blamed for her death, and the jury found you guilty," Thatcher said.
She said that was the case of Michael Morton, who spent nearly 25 years in Texas prisons before DNA testing pointed to the real murderer. Under Oregon's current testing standards, Morton would not have been allowed to have the DNA tests done, Thatcher said.
Morton himself traveled from Texas to appear before the Senate judiciary committee on Feb. 11. He described the gruesome scene in his bedroom where his wife had been beaten to death in their bed in 1986 after he had left for work.