OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A bill allowing the use of DNA testing to investigate claims of innocence by state inmates was hailed as essential by Gov. Frank Keating at a mock bill signing Tuesday.
The measure, by Rep. Jari Askins, D-Duncan, and Sen. Dick Wilkerson, D-Atwood, permits the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System to investigate and screen claims that DNA testing would prove the "factual innocence" of certain inmates.
"In the wake of so many highly publicized DNA-related cases throughout the country, this bill is essential to guard against the injustice of an innocent person being wrongfully convicted, imprisoned or executed," Keating said.
Jim Bednar, OIDS executive director, said that as a former prosecutor, he would hope that Oklahoma did not have any innocent inmates in prison.
"We hope that is not the case, but we think that it is," he said.
Bednar noted that law enforcement, using DNA testing, had been able to exclude 31 percent of those who had been considered primary suspects in rape cases.
Without the use of DNA testing, Keating said, a person responsible for a crime might "still be on the street and we don't want that."