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March 5, 2013

Justice commission’s ideas should take hold

NORMAN — Every now and then, when the right people get together without an agenda, and with enough time to thoughtfully consider the topic, some common sense emerges.

That seems to be the case with the Oklahoma Justice Commission established by the Oklahoma Bar Association. The group, led by former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, met for more than two years. It included law enforcement officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and victim advocates.

Their recommendations will be forwarded to the Oklahoma legislature. The commission reviewed wrongful convictions, DNA, false confessions, eye-witness identifications and the use of informants.

More than a quarter of the wrongful convictions studied involved false confessions.

Among the recommendations are that future confessions be videotaped as technology and circumstances allow. That would protect law enforcement from accusations of coercion and preserve details of a suspect’s behavior.

The commission also recommended new procedures for police line-ups and photo identification. The report expresses support for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in its efforts to regain national accreditation, obtain new facilities and secure additional pathologists to reach that standard.

The commission also noted Oklahoma is currently the only state in the U.S. that does not have a post-conviction DNA testing law and proposed legislation to allow access to DNA in cases where additional testing could establish innocence.

Legislation to remedy that fact has been proposed this year by State Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, who was a member of the justice commission.

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