Tuesday, September 25, 2018
The pertinent portion of Rhode Island's postconviction DNA testing statute, R.I. Gen. Laws § 10-9.1-12(a)(1), states that a defendant seeking postconviction DNA testing must establish
[a] reasonable probability exists that the requested testing will produce DNA results which would have altered the verdict or reduced the petitioner’s sentence if the results had been available at the prior proceedings leading to the judgment of conviction.
So, where does that leave pleading defendants?
Black's Law Dictionary defines a "verdict" as a “formal decision or finding made by a jury, impaneled and sworn for the trial of a cause, and reported to the court (and accepted by it) upon the matters duly submitted to them upon trial.” Therefore, Rhode Island's postconviction DNA testing statute indirectly references a trial. As such, I think it is likely that Rhode Island courts will interpret this statute to preclude pleading defendants from seeking relief. But, so far, I'm aware of any Rhode Island cases in which pleading defendants sought postconviction DNA testing.