ACLU of PA Says Passage of Law Allowing Post-Conviction DNA Testing is Critical to Promoting Justice

February 7, 2002 12:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA–Following reports of yet another case in which DNA test results have demonstrated that an individual was wrongfully convicted, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania today urged state lawmakers to enact legislation providing for post-conviction DNA testing.

“The need for this legislation has been dramatically demonstrated by recent reports of scientific evidence exonerating a man who had been convicted of two rapes in 1987,” said Larry Frankel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. Frankel noted that the Senate unanimously the bill passed last June.

The defendant, Bruce Godschalk, was convicted of committing two rapes in a housing complex in King of Prussia. He maintained his innocence ever since his arrest and was convicted largely on the basis of a “”confession.”” At trial, Godschalk testified that he had given a false confession because he had been threatened.

Godschalk first requested DNA testing in 1995 to support his claim of innocence. The District Attorney resisted all attempts to have DNA evidence tested and the Pennsylvania courts backed up the prosecutor. The tests were finally performed in 2001 after a federal court ordered them to be performed. The test results support Godschalk’s claims. Laboratories selected by the prosecution and defense conducted the tests.

“”The Godschalk case is a glaring example of why it is so important for the General Assembly to enact a strong post-conviction DNA testing law,” Frankel said. “Such a law would permit individuals who present a substantial claim that DNA will demonstrate their innocence to obtain such testing and have the results considered by the courts. If Senate Bill 589 becomes law in Pennsylvania, wrongfully convicted defendants will not be forced to spend years fighting to establish their innocence.””

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