Only a small fraction of Florida inmates who want postconviction DNA tests to support their innocence are expected to file their requests before October 1, the deadline established by state legislators for testing in old cases, the St. Petersburg Times reports.
Among the cases described by the Times: Hector M. Irizarry is serving life in prison for the 1984 murder of his ex-wife, who was nearly decapitated by a machete; Dwight E. Anderson is serving a 27-year term for the 1992 slaying of a crack dealer gunned down in a Tampa apartment; Todd Jenkins is doing life for the 1990 murder of a neighbor who was found outside her Tampa apartment bleeding from 32 stab wounds.
These inmates are represented by prominent Tampa Bay defense lawyers who are handling their cases free. The effort is being managed by the Innocence Project of New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. It operates in Florida on a shoestring budget and relies heavily on law students. Of hundreds of cases reviewed, the project has found at least 82 with claims that can be pursued. “We would like to proceed and file all 82 cases. We are not going to make it,” said a spokeswoman.
Defense lawyers will ask the Florida Supreme Court to extend the deadline, but the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association will oppose the effort. “It brings some finality to the cases – finality for the families and the victims,” said the group’s Buddy Jacobs.
Defense lawyers say that Florida prisoners, many functionally illiterate, are helpless without advocates. Prisoners often fail to draft technically accurate motions for DNA testing.