PC 1405 was passed in order to give people who may have suffered wrongful convictions based on eyewitness misidentification a chance at justice if post-conviction DNA testing could help clear them. Among the criteria set forth in Penal Code PC 1405 is that the physical evidence is available for DNA testing, has been properly kept, and that the "requested DNA testing results would raise a reasonable probability that, in light of all the evidence, the convicted person's verdict or sentence would have been more favorable if the results of DNA testing had been available at the time of conviction."
In Jointer v. Superior Court of Orange County, the petitioner was sentenced to 34 years in prison for robbery based largely on eyewitness testimony. The lower court denied him the right to have a water bottle left at the scene subjected to post-conviction DNA testing under PC 1405, apparently because that court believed Mr. Jointer would have been convicted anyway. But the appellate court looked at the case and decided that the lower court abused its discretion in refusing to allow the DNA test, so now Mr. Jointer can have the water bottle tested.
The appellate court emphasized that a successful Section 1405 petition is not the same thing as being exonerated. Rather, the court explained that the task in resolving a PC 1405 motion is "not to speculate about what the results of DNA testing would be, but instead to decide whether a result favorable to defendant could reasonably have impacted the outcome."
According to the Innocence Project, eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction. Over 300 wrongfully convicted people have been exonerated nationwide through post-conviction testing like that contemplated by California Penal Code Section 1405. PC 1405 is an important statute geared towards remedying the systemic injustice of wrongful convictions and the further systemic injustice of denying those suffering from wrongful convictions every opportunity to rectify the situation.
The court in Jointer v. Superior Court of Orange County discussed the now well-known problems with eyewitness identification in the opinion. In the end, the court concluded that: "Both parties recognized the central importance of the finger prints on the water bottle. And given the prosecution's inability to prove when the fingerprints were put on the bottle, it is reasonably probable a favorable DNA test would undermine the prosecution's most important piece of evidence. There were no confessions, as in Richardson. Instead, the remaining evidence was fallible eyewitness identifications and relatively weak circumstantial evidence. Taken together, there is a reasonable probability a favorable DNA test for defendant would impact the outcome."