NORTH BERGEN – Senator Nicholas J. Sacco, sponsor of the law that created New Jersey’s criminal DNA database, pointed to today’s news that new DNA evidence convinced a judge to vacate the 20-year-old rape and murder conviction of Byron Halsey as “one example of the power of DNA to find the truth in some of our toughest criminal cases.”
“Today’s ruling shows just how powerful a tool the State’s DNA database is for our law enforcement community,” said Senator Sacco, D-Bergen and Hudson. “Not only has it helped an innocent man get out of a life sentence, but it will ensure that the real perpetrator of these horrible acts will answer for what he did 20 years ago.”
Senator Sacco added, “I hope that this case will help gain support for efforts to expand the number of convicted criminals required to submit DNA samples, so similar doubts in other cases can be properly addressed.”
Senator Sacco is currently sponsoring bill S-378, which would expand the DNA Convicted Sampling and Testing Program to include those individuals who are convicted of committing a disorderly persons’ offense or arrested for certain violent crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and sexual assault. If the charges against an arrestee are dropped or the individual is acquitted at trial, any DNA samples and records would have to be destroyed.
“DNA evidence is the 21st Century’s answer to fingerprinting, and it is appropriate for us to use it as extensively as we use fingerprinting now,” explained Senator Sacco. “Today we saw that it’s not just a means of proving someone guilty, but can also show one’s innocence, even two decades later.”