Amendments to factual innocence statute passes Utah Legislature

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate granted final passage Friday to a bill that amends the state’s factual innocence statute.
The 2008 law is intended to give people who maintain they were wrongfully incarcerated an opportunity to petition a court to prove “under the facts, there is no way you could have been guilty,” explained Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. Weiler, who is an attorney, was Senate sponsor of HB307.
A factual innocence hearing is a form of post conviction relief different than an appeal of a criminal conviction.
The statute was used recently on behalf of Debra Brown, who was freed from prison last year after spending 17 years behind bars for a 1993 murder in Logan.
HB307 sponsored by Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, would set a standard for a court’s determination of factual innocence.
Under the bill’s language, the court must determine by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner did not commit the offenses of which they were convicted and that determination is based on newly discovered material evidence.
While the Brown case raised some concerns about the statute, the new law will have no bearing on the Utah Attorney General’s appeal of the outcome of the district court hearing after which Brown was freed from prison, Weiler said.

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