NCIP’s 2020 legislative season was unexpectedly cut short due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and California’s limited budget resources. Despite strong support in the legislature, NCIP’s co-sponsored bills SB 938 (Weiner) and SB 1137 were paused in favor of bills that could help California better deal with the current COVID-19 health crisis. NCIP and coalition partners have already begun thinking about their legislative priorities for 2021.
Read more below about NCIP's co-sponsored bills in the 2020 legislative session.
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On February 7, 2020, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced NCIP co-sponsored SB 938, which would amend the standards used for evaluating expert testimony and forensics in court pre- and post-conviction. Faulty forensic and scientific evidence, provided by expert witnesses, are the second most common reason that individuals are wrongfully convicted for crimes they did not commit. Today, courts have discretion over which expert testimonies are admissible. Studies show that courts accept most forensic science and expert testimony without sufficient scrutiny, leaving significant room for imprecision and human error. This error leads to the high rate of false convictions. Expert testimony that fails to rely on sound logic should not be considered expert testimony at all.
To read SB 938, as introduced, click here.
To read Senator Wiener's press release about the introduction of the legislation, click here.
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On February 19, 2020, Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) introduced NCIP co-sponsored SB 1137 which would add factual innocence as an additional basis for habeas corpus relief, and would require a petitioner to establish their factual innocence by clear and convincing evidence, as defined, that no reasonable jury would have found them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The bill would make a finding of factual innocence at an uncontested hearing binding on the California Victim Compensation Board for purposes of a claim. The bill would require the board to order compensation if it finds the claimant has established by a preponderance of the evidence that no reasonable jury would find the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt had they heard the evidence now before the board. The bill would require the court to include in the sealed records that the person was found factually innocent.