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Kansas court expands post-conviction DNA testing

10/4/2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas statute that limits post-conviction DNA analysis to cases involving only first-degree murder or rape is unconstitutional, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The state Supreme Court ruled in a split decision that the statute violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://is.gd/OmXy7I ).

The high court's decision, which was written by Justice Nancy Moritz, said the Kansas law limiting post-conviction DNA analysis only to people convicted of first-degree murder or rape should be extended to cover people serving life sentences for second-degree murder.

The decision reversed a Wyandotte County district court ruling that denied DNA testing to Jerome Cheeks, who was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after being convicted in 1993 for second-degree murder. The court remanded the case to the Wyandotte County court to establish whether Cheeks meets two other statutory requirements necessary to secure DNA testing of evidence found at the crime scene.

Moritz said the high court could either strike the statute or expand it to include a wider class. She wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court has specified a preference for expanding such a statute rather than striking it.

Justices Dan Biles and Eric Rosen dissenting and upheld the statute as written. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss agreed the state statute is problematic, but wrote he would have struck the statute rather than expand it.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com