AN ACT TO MODIFY VARIOUS STATUTORY PROVISIONS REGARDING THE NORTH CAROLINA INNOCENCE INQUIRY COMMISSION.
Makes the following changes to Article 92, NC Innocence Inquiry Commission (Commission), of GS Chapter 15A.
Modifies the defined terms set out in GS 15A-1460. Now defines claim of factual innocence to mean a claim on behalf of a person convicted of a felony, asserting the complete innocence of any criminal responsibility for the felony for which the person was convicted (previously limited to claims on behalf of living persons, and also included asserting complete innocence for any other reduced level of criminal responsibility relating to the crime) for which there is some credible, verifiable evidence of innocence that has not been previously presented at trial or considered at a hearing granted through postconviction relief. Also modifies claimant, formal inquiry, and victim.
Amends GS 15A-1463 to no longer require that the sheriff on the Commission hold office at the time of his or her appointment to the Commission. Adds a new requirement for at least one meeting of the Commission a year to include a time for public comment with public notice provided at least two weeks prior to the meeting. Specifies that the meeting notice is to be public notice. Makes technical changes.
Makes technical changes to GS 15A-1464 regarding terms of Commission members. Now includes the sheriff member in those members serving by virtue of elective or appointive office who can only serve so long as the officeholders hold their respective offices.
Amends GS 15A-1467 to require the Director to provide counsel who referred a claim with the case disposition and memorandum if the claim is closed prior to formal inquiry. Makes a conforming change to eliminate the prohibition against considering a claim of factual innocence if the convicted person is deceased. Specifies that the periodic case update for cases granted a formal inquiry provided by the Director to the District Attorney and the convicted person, or counsel, must include a complete summary of all witness interviews and the results of all forensic testing that has been conducted, with the goal of encouraging cooperation pursuant to GS 15A-1468(f) (which provides for agreement between the DA and the convicted person or their counsel that there is sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review).
Amends GS 15A-1468 to require at least two weeks' public notice of Commission hearings to be made by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Adds a new requirement for a copy of any written statement of the DA or designee provided to the Commission prior to any Commission proceeding be provided to the claimant's counsel or to the claimant, as appropriate. Removes the distinction for cases where the convicted person entered and was convicted on a plea of guilty in the provisions regarding the full Commission's vote to establish further disposition of the case (which required all eight voting Commission members to conclude there is sufficient evidence of factual evidence to merit judicial review in order for the case to be referred) to instead include all cases in the general provision which requires five or more voting Commission members to conclude there is sufficient evidence of factual evidence to merit judicial review in order for the case to be referred to the senior resident superior court judge in the court of original jurisdiction. Adds a new requirement for the Commission to make a copy of the entire file available to the district attorney and defense counsel when the parties agree that there is sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review pursuant to GS 15B-1468(f). Further requires copies of the full case files for formal inquiry cases not presented to the Commission to be provided to the district attorney and defense counsel when the formal inquiry is completed, in accordance with specified statutes. Removes the provision which authorizes the district attorney and defense counsel to determine which evidence, if any, will be presented to the three-judge panel, and relocates the provision to GS 15A-1469.
Amends GS 15A-1469, removing the exceptions for the requirement for the Commission’s entire file to be unencumbered by protective orders when transferred to the district attorney and defense council pursuant to GS 15A-1468(g) (previously referred to GS 15A-1469(g)). Adds a new provision requiring that, if the claimant files a motion for appropriate relief pursuant to Article 89 of GS Chapter 15A any time within a year of the denied relief, the motion must be considered by the senior judge of the three-judge panel.
Applies to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2019.