News Release

INNOCENCE PROTECTION ACT OF 2001 SECTION-BY-SECTION SUMMARY

OVERVIEW  

Washington, DC (2001, exact date unknown) -- The Innocence Protection Act of 2001 is a carefully crafted package of criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing the risk that innocent persons may be executed. Most urgently, the bill would afford greater access to DNA testing by convicted offenders; and help States improve the quality of legal representation in capital cases.

TITLE I—EXONERATING THE INNOCENT

THROUGH DNA TESTING

Sec. 101. Findings and purposes. Legislative findings and purposes in support of this title.

Sec. 102. DNA testing in Federal criminal justice system. Establishes rules and procedures governing applications for DNA testing by inmates in the Federal system. Courts shall order DNA testing if it has the scientific potential to produce new exculpatory evidence material to the inmate’s claim of innocence. When the test results are exculpatory, courts shall order a hearing and make such further orders as may be appropriate under existing law. Prohibits the destruction of biological evidence in a criminal case while a defendant remains incarcerated, absent prior notification to such defendant of the government’s intent to destroy the evidence.

Sec. 103. DNA testing in State criminal justice system. Conditions receipt of Federal grants for DNA-related programs on an assurance that the State will adopt adequate procedures for preserving biological material and making DNA testing available to inmates.

Sec. 104. Prohibition pursuant to section 5 of the 14th Amendment. Prohibits States from denying applications for DNA testing by death row inmates, if the proposed testing has the scientific potential to produce new exculpatory evidence material to the inmate’s claim of innocence. Also prohibits States from denying inmates a meaningful opportunity to prove their innocence using the results of DNA testing. Inmates may sue for declaratory or injunctive relief to enforce these prohibitions.

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Sec. 105. Grants to prosecutors for proactive post-conviction DNA testing. Permits States to use grants under the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Programs to fund the growing number of prosecutor-initiated programs that review convictions to identify cases in which DNA testing is appropriate and that offer DNA testing to inmates in such cases.

TITLE II—ENSURING COMPETENT LEGAL SERVICES IN CAPITAL CASES

Sec. 201. National Commission on Capital Representation. Establishes a National Commission on Capital Representation to develop standards for providing adequate legal representation for indigents facing a death sentence. The Commission would be composed of nine members and would include experienced prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, and would complete its work within one year. Total authorization $1,000,000.

Sec. 202. Capital defense incentive grants. Establishes a grant program, to be administered by the State Justice Institute, to help States implement the Commission’s standards and otherwise improve the quality of representation in capital cases. Authorization is $50,000,000 for the first year, and such sums as may be necessary for the two years that follow.

Sec. 203. Amendments to prison grant programs. Directs the Attorney General to withhold a portion of the funds awarded under the prison grant programs from death penalty States that have not established or do not maintain a system for providing legal representation in capital cases that satisfies the Commission’s standards. The Attorney General may waive the withholding requirement for one year under certain circumstances.

Sec. 204. Effect on procedural default rules. Provides that certain procedural barriers to Federal habeas corpus review shall not apply if the State did not provide legal representation to the habeas petitioner under a State system for providing representation that satisfied the Commission’s standards. This section does not apply in any case in which the relevant State court proceeding occurred more than 1 year before the formulation of such standards.

Sec. 205. Capital defense resource grants. Amends the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. §3006A, to make more Federal funding available for purposes of enhancing the availability, competence, and prompt assignment of counsel in capital cases, encouraging the continuity of representation in such cases, and increasing the efficiency with which capital cases are resolved.

TITLE III—MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

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Sec. 301. Increased compensation in federal cases. Raises the total amount of damages that may be awarded against the United States in cases of unjust imprisonment from $5,000 to $50,000 a year in a non-death penalty case, or $100,000 a year in a death penalty case.

Sec. 302. Compensation in state death cases. Encourages states to maintain effective procedures for reasonably compensating persons who were unjustly convicted and sentenced to death, and investigating the causes of such unjust convictions in order to prevent such errors from recurring.

Sec. 303. Certification requirement in federal death penalty prosecutions. Increases accountability by requiring the Attorney General, when seeking the death penalty in any case, to certify that the federal interest in the prosecution is more substantial than the interests of the state or local authorities. Modeled on the certification requirements in the federal civil rights and juvenile delinquency laws, this section codifies existing practice as reflected in section 9-10.070 of the U.S. Attorney’s Manual. This section does not create any rights enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal.

Sec. 304. Alternative of life imprisonment without possibility of release. Clarifies that juries in death penalty prosecutions brought under the drug kingpin statute, 21 U.S.C.§848(l), have the option of recommending life imprisonment without possibility of release. This amendment incorporates into the drug kingpin statute a procedural protection that federal law already expressly provides to the vast majority of capital defendants.

Sec. 305. Right to an informed jury. Encourages states to allow defendants in capital cases to have the jury instructed on all statutorily-authorized sentencing options, including applicable parole eligibility rules and terms.

Sec. 306. Annual reports. Directs the Justice Department to prepare an annual report regarding the administration of the nation’s capital punishment laws. The report must be submitted to Congress, distributed to the press and posted on the Internet.

Sec. 307. Sense of the Congress regarding the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded. Expresses the sense of the Congress that the death penalty is disproportionate and offends contemporary standards of decency when applied to juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.

Contacts

NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.