Bill Summaries: H 901 MODIFY NC INNOCENCE INQUIRY PROVISIONS.

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  • Summary date: May 7 2021 - More information

    Repeals GS 15A-1417(a)(3a) to no longer explicitly provide for relief in the form of referral to the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission when a court grants a motion for appropriate relief for claims of factual innocence.

    Amends GS 15A-1463, modifying the membership of the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission (Commission) to include a sheriff (was a sheriff holding office at the time of his or her appointment). Adds a new requirement for the Commission to hold one administrative meeting per year to allow for public comment. Further requires that the date, time, and location for meetings allowing for public comment to be published on the Commission's website at least 30 days prior to the meeting. Directs meeting procedures to be set by Commission rules. 

    No longer excludes the sheriff from the condition that members serving on the Commission by virtue of elective or appointive office may serve only so long as the officeholders hold those respective offices, as set forth in GS 15A-1464.

    Enacts GS 15A-1467(a1), to allow any court, State or local agency, or a claimant's counsel that refers a case to the Commission to request a confidential case status update of a referred case once every six months from the Commission Director; allows for denial of an update for good cause shown. Requires the Director to notify the referring entity when a referred claim is closed without a Commission hearing along with a confidential explanation. Amends subsection (b) to require the Director to inform Indigent Defense Services (IDS) of an attorney's referral of the case for their consideration. Amends subsection (c) regarding formal inquiry case updates to the District Attorney and the convicted person or counsel, to require the update include a complete summary of all actions taken since the last update, including witness interviews and result of all forensic testing that has been conducted (was, a summary of actions taken since the last update and the results of any forensic testing that has been conducted).

    Adds to GS 15A-1468 to require notice of dates of upcoming public hearing by the Commission to be published on the Commission's website at least 10 days prior to the hearing, with Director granted discretion in disclosing the name of the case being presented. Regarding the prehearing conference, now entitles the claimant's counsel an opportunity to inspect any evidence presented to the Commission that has not previously been presented to any judicial officer or body and any information that the DA or their designee or claimant's counsel deems relevant to the proceedings (was, limited to the DA or the DA's designee). Allows the DA or their designee to provide the Commission and the claimant's counsel with a written statement to be part of the record 72 hours prior to the proceedings (was, Commission only).

    Revises the requirements for the Commission to refer the case for judicial review to include five or more members concluding there is sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review in instances where a conviction resulted from a trial, an Alford plea, or a nolo contendere plea (previously excluded vases where the convicted person entered and was convicted on a plea of guilty). Provides that if less than five voting members, or in cases where the convicted person entered and was convicted on a guilty please less than six voting members (was, less than all eight for guilty plea convictions), conclude there is sufficient evidence to merit judicial review, then the Commission must conclude there is insufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review. No longer provides for the confidentiality of the Commission's records for conclusions supporting insufficient evidence, making the provisions regarding supporting records of the Commission's conclusion that there is sufficient evidence apply. Adds new subsection (g1) providing for otherwise confidential records of the Commission to be released by court order after notice to the Commission and an opportunity for the Commission to be heard and upon a finding that release is in the interest of justice. 

    Amends GS 15A-1469, which governs the post-Commission three-judge panel review, to now require the Commission's entire file to be unencumbered by protective orders when transferred to the DA and defense counsel unless the Commission is granted a protective order by the senior judge of the panel upon a written motion and finding of good cause (was, unless the DA and defense counsel consented, or have been given an opportunity to be heard by the senior judge before the protective order is issued). Adds a new provision regarding the panel denying relief, to provide that if a claimant filed a motion for appropriate relief under Article 89 within one year of the denied relief, the motion must be considered by the senior judge of the panel. 

    Appropriate $25,000 from the General Fund to the Commission for each year of the 2021-23 biennium to prepare and deliver case updates as required by the act. Effective July 1, 2021.


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