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UC Law Students Celebrate Signing of Landmark Ohio Law They Helped Create

A model innocence reform bill for the nation that has its roots in the work of nine UC College of Law students was signed into law on Monday by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Hear what Gov. Strickland had to say about the Ohio Innocence Project in the accompanying video.

Date: 4/5/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Chris Kasson

UC ingot  
Of all of the list of significant accomplishments the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) can claim in its seven years of existence – which includes securing the freedom of eight innocent men who were wrongfully convicted – none can top what took place Monday in terms of overall impact.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signs the bill, with bill sponsors Rep. W. Carlton Weddington (left) and Sen. David Goodman.

Members of the OIP, which is based in the University of Cincinnati College of Law, were on hand to witness the signing into law by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland of a new criminal justice reform bill that will make Ohio a national leader in terms of implementing best practices to prevent the possibility of wrongful convictions.

Strickland signed the bill into law during a 9 a.m. ceremony in the Cabinet Room of the Ohio Statehouse. Video coverage of the signing ceremony can be seen on an archived Ohio Channel Webcast.

One of the bill's sponsors, former Ohio Rep. (and now Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge) Tyrone Yates, calls it "one of the most important pieces of criminal justice legislation in this state in a century." The national leadership of the Innocence Project considers it to be the most comprehensive set of safeguards of its kind in the nation.

"This is a remarkable day for Ohio, and for all those who have worked so hard to make this law a reality," says Mark Godsey, a UC professor of law and faculty director for the OIP. "Thousands of hours of research and effort went into researching and writing what would become this piece of legislation. Ohio is truly the national leader on innocence reforms, and will be the role model other states look to as they contemplate similar measures in the coming years."
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and exoneree Joseph Fears
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland with exoneree Joseph Fears

Among the new provisions that will now be Ohio law are:
  • A requirement for preservation of DNA evidence in all cases of serious crime, such as homicide and sexual assault

  • Police incentives for the recording of all interrogations from beginning to end in cases of serious crime

  • A requirement for police lineups and eyewitness photo ID procedures to be conducted in double-blind fashion, meaning the officer who oversees the eyewitness procedure with the witness does not know who among the sample pool is the suspect

  • An expansion of Ohio’s post-conviction DNA testing law to allow for DNA testing to be done during the parole phase of the justice cycle
Work on the legislation began two years ago when a group of nine first-year UC law students spent their winter break researching all aspects of laws and practices in the country that applied to this area of the law. Those nine students, who will see the bill become law in their final semesters as UC law students, are Christie Bebo, Chris Liu, Peter O’Shea, Eric Gooding, Amanda Marie Smith, Patrick Brown, Elizabeth Zilberberg, Jonathan Haas and Tommy Kemp.

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper also provided the project a significant lift by partnering with the OIP on a series of articles, "Test of Convictions," which illuminated many issues on the subject of wrongful convictions in the state.

For more on the OIP's efforts in helping to shape this law, go to this recent news release: "Innocence Reform Bill Crafted at UC College of Law on Verge of Becoming Ohio Law."

You can also read a release on this new law from the national headquarters of the Innocence Project.