HARRISBURG- Tuesday night the Harrisburg City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Innocence Commission Act, PA Senate Bill 1069, which would establish the Innocence Commission of Pennsylvania. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania hailed the decision.
"To be the victim of a wrongful conviction is the ultimate loss of freedom," said Andy Hoover of the ACLU of PA, "and the Innocence Commission is a necessary step toward fixing our justice system.
"We know that people are convicted of crimes someone else committed, and this new commission could potentially provide us with answers to why that happens and how to stop it. The Harrisburg City Council deserves credit for publicly backing the legislation."
Harrisburg is the second city council to back the Innocence Commission Act. In May, Philadelphia City Council passed a similar resolution.
Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced SB 1069 in January, and the Senate passed it unanimously in April. The commission would consist of police, attorneys, judges, and others involved in criminal justice and would examine the nine DNA exonerations in Pennsylvania for clues and patterns that lead to wrongful convictions.
The bill is currently in the state House Judiciary Committee.
Hoover noted recent events to support the need for the legislation.
"Since November, several situations have clarified the importance of the Innocence Commission Act," he said. "In May, Drew Whitley of Pittsburgh was exonerated by DNA evidence after serving 18 years of a life sentence. In December, the Patriot News broke the story of David Gladden of Harrisburg who is in prison for a crime he may not have committed. In November, Harold Wilson of Philadelphia was acquitted at retrial after 16 years on death row. And just last month Steve Crawford of Harrisburg settled a lawsuit over his 28 years of wrongful imprisonment.
"Clearly, there are significant issues in Pennsylvania's criminal justice system that need to be examined."