Heroin bill, DNA expansion bill and juvenile code study pass Senate Judiciary

02/07/2013 12:41 PM

FRANKFORT — The Senate Judiciary Committee gave its endorsement on Thursday to a bill to bump up the penalty for trafficking of heroin and cocaine, allow those convicted of serious crimes to challenge convictions with DNA evidence and a measure to continue studying juvenile justice issues.

Heroin Bill

The committee approved by an 8-1 vote SB 6 aimed at combating a resurgence of heroin, particularly in Northern Kentucky and Louisville. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, seeks to establish a new Class B felony level for traffickers in high levels of Schedule 1 narcotics that include heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

The bill doesn’t specifically mention marijuana, which also is a Schedule 1 substance.

Stine was joined by members of law enforcement, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and hospital staff who are supporting the bill as part of what they called a three tired approach to drug abuse.

While the bill was passed on to the full Senate, several Senators said they had problems with the bill.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson who is a lawyer, said she took exception to the provision allowing law enforcement 180 days to build a case against a drug trafficker she said knowing someone is dealing drugs and not doing anything about it for 180 days is “morally wrong.”

Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders told Webb 180 days is needed to build the big cases and take down traffickers. The bill seeks to define a dealer as someone dealing more than 40 grams, he said. He said 40 grams of heroin could kill everyone in the committee room — and that dealers sell heroin by the tenth of a gram.

In the end, the committee voted 8-1 in favor of the bill with Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, voting no, and Webb passing on the vote.

Expanding the availability of DNA testing post-conviction

The committee also voted 11-0 in favor of sending SB 23 to the full Senate. The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. John Shickel, R-Union, would give those found guilty of a capital offense, Class A felony, Class B felony, or a violent felony-level crime the right to contest their conviction with DNA evidence.

Currently, Kentucky is one of two states with a restriction in place that only those convicted and the death penalty has been imposed may appeal their conviction with DNA testing.

Shickel mentioned a case in Campbell County where he said justice wasn’t served. Watch the video for his full explanation:

Shickel quoted John Adams saying, “It is more important that innocence be protected. Than it is that guilt be punished.”

The group debated that some groups could be left out of the appeal process if they had pleaded guilty to a crime. Webb said that doesn’t necessarily imply guilt.

Studying the Unified Juvenile Code

An interim legislative task force that has been looking into juvenile justice reforms will continue its work into 2013 after meeting in the interim between the legislative sessions, as provided by a resolution the committee passed Thursday.

The group which was led by Sen. Katie Stine, said they ran out of time to fully study the issues.

SCR 35, would re-establish the task force to study the Unified Juvenile Code and report on their findings by Jan 6, 2014.

The committee quickly and unanimously voted in favor of the legislation and put the resolution on the fast track by placing it on the consent calendar.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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