DAYTON — Of the 315 inmates trying to take advantage of a law allowing them to ask for DNA testing after they’ve been convicted and sent to prison, just 19 of the applications have been approved, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The law, which took effect in 2003, is so restrictive and prosecutors fight the requests so fiercely, few requests are ever approved, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Inmates were turned down because the evidence, in some cases, no longer exists. Ohio and 27 other states have no law requiring that evidence be kept for any given time, even though DNA technology is getting increasingly sophisticated.
A review by the Daily News of 24 applications from Montgomery County shows that most fell short because of the facts of the cases. But in a few, a scientific test that can cost as little as $500 could have acted as a backstop to the criminal justice system, the newspaper said.
Edmund Earl Emerick III, convicted in the 1994 claw-hammer murders of two men in Dayton, was one of only three Miami Valley inmates to be granted DNA testing by the courts but only after he appealed. The testing hasn’t yet been done, but Emerick hopes it will clear him.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck, who opposed all 24 applications, said the state law doesn’t block DNA testing for prisoners who deserve it.
“There has to be some finality for the defendant, but also for the victim or the survivors and the justice system,” Heck said.
“Otherwise, I think it really diminishes the value or the reason to have a trial.”
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this year that giving prosecutors the final say on whether an inmate can apply for DNA testing, as in the original law, was unconstitutional. Approval is now up to a judge.
Timothy Young, Ohio’s new public defender, said there’s no harm in allowing inmates greater access to post-conviction DNA testing.