Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 157
By: Hochberg
Criminal Jurisprudence


Over the past decade, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing has emerged as a
reliable forensic technique for identifying criminals when biological
evidence is left at a crime scene.  DNA testing possesses, in many cases,
scientific precision and may conclusively establish guilt or innocence of a
defendant.  Since DNA testing is often feasible on relevant biological
material that is decades old, it can, in some circumstances, prove that a
conviction that predated the development of DNA testing was based upon
incorrect factual findings.   Therefore, DNA testing has the capacity to
result in the post-conviction exoneration of innocent men and women. 

Under current law, it is difficult to obtain post-conviction DNA testing
because of time limits and impediments on introducing newly discovered
evidence.   House Bill 157 allows a convicted person to request DNA testing
and requires a court to order the preservation of DNA evidence. 


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency, or institution. 


House Bill 157 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to add a chapter
relating to postconviction DNA testing and provides that this chapter
controls over any law governing habeas corpus or appeal to the extent of
any conflict.  The bill authorizes a person sentenced for an offense to
file a petition in the convicting court requesting the forensic DNA testing
of any evidence that is in the possession of the attorney representing the
state, law enforcement, or a court; relates to the investigation or
prosecution that resulted in the person's conviction; and is biological
evidence or may contain biological evidence.   The bill requires the court,
on receipt of a petition and after providing the attorney representing the
state with notice and an opportunity to respond to the allegations in the
petition, to order DNA testing if the court finds that:  

_a reasonable probability exists that DNA testing of the evidence would
produce results that, if favorable to the petitioner, would produce
evidence relevant and material to the petitioner's claim of innocence; 

_the evidence sought in the petition exists and is in such a condition that
DNA testing of the evidence is possible; 

_the evidence has not been previously subjected to DNA testing, or if
previously subjected to DNA testing, the type of DNA test requested in the
petition may be more capable of determining the origin of DNA in or on the
evidence than the previous test; and 

_the petition is filed to demonstrate innocence and not to unreasonably
delay the execution of a sentence or the administration of justice.   

 The bill also provides that a petitioner is entitled to counsel during a
proceeding for a DNA testing request and requires the court to appoint
counsel for an indigent petitioner.  Compensation of counsel is provided in
the same manner as is required for the procedure in a death penalty case
for habeas corpus if the petitioner was convicted of a capital felony and
in the same manner as is required for arraignment if the petitioner, in a
habeas corpus hearing, is an indigent defendant convicted of a felony other
than a capital felony.   The bill authorizes the court to require the
attorney representing the state or the petitioner to provide  the other
party with any laboratory reports and notes and underlying data resulting
from any DNA testing of evidence related to the petitioner's case.  It
further provides that if a court orders DNA testing, the court shall
require the production of laboratory reports prepared in connection with
the testing and is authorized to order the production of underlying data
and laboratory notes. 

The bill requires that on the filing of a petition, unless the petition is
summarily dismissed, the court 
shall order the preservation, until proceedings are final, of all evidence
in the petitioner's case that is in the possession of the attorney
representing the state, law enforcement, a laboratory, or an officer of the
court and that may be subject to DNA testing.  The bill requires the court
to dismiss the petition and make further orders as appropriate if the
results of DNA testing are not favorable to the petitioner.  If the results
are favorable to the petitioner, the petitioner is considered to have met
the necessary requirements under the law for the court to consider the
merits of or grant relief based on a subsequent application for writ of
habeas corpus, and the court is required to proceed appropriately on this


September 1, 2001.