(Neil Rockind discusses his interest in a bill focused on changing the process of how DNA samples get returned to those who are acquitted of crimes. John Turk-The Oakland Press.)
Bloomfield Hills-based attorney Neil Rockind says innocent people shouldn’t have to ask for what’s already theirs.
That’s why he’s calling on Michigan legislators to be tougher with a Michigan Senate bill dealing with the return of DNA evidence for individuals acquitted of any charges, he said.
“I don’t believe it should be an innocent person’s responsibility to seek the return of DNA profile evidence that was taken from him or her by law enforcement,” said Rockind of Senate Bill 1083, sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida.
“The law should be more protective of people whose cases are dismissed.”
The Senate bill, which is moving through committee following its introduction Sept. 20, aims to change the process for biological evidence destruction by requiring the individual whose charges have been dropped or dismissed to request the DNA sample be destroyed.
Rockind said his passion for the issue was sparked in 2015 when he handled a drunk driving case in in which the accused was acquitted following a jury trial.
The client, records show, was Michael Amouri, whose case was presided over in the 48th District Court by Judge Marc Baron.
“He was charged with drunken driving and refused a blood test, so police sought a blood test,” said Rockind.
“Our defense in the case was that the state couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was operating (under the influence).”
Amouri was eventually acquitted by a jury.
Rockind said later that it dawned on him that his client was acquitted; the state should not be able to keep the blood sample.
He and his client met several challenges to getting the sample back, including the Michigan State Police Crime Lab telling them returning a DNA sample was against policy, preparing formal pleadings to get the sample back and opposition from the arresting law enforcement agency, said Rockind. The process took about a month.
“Initially, the department refused and claimed the blood drawn from the client belonged to the prosecuting agency or the arresting agency,”Rockind said.
“However, there is no law supporting the department’s claim. The department also claimed there is a policy that all blood samples must be kept for two years, with no distinction or exception for persons acquitted of a crime. Again, we found no law supporting that.”
Rockind said the final SB 1083 legislation needs to be explicit in defining when and how any biological evidence of an innocent person is returned.
“It must be timely and automatic,” he said.
“If someone is acquitted, there should be an automatic letter sent to the crime lab to destroy or return the profile. No one should have to go through any hoops at all to get their biological information returned to them.”
by John Turk via The Oakland Press