Evidence that could exonerate people wrongly convicted of crimes might be destroyed after Dec. 31, because a Washington state law requiring authorities to preserve DNA evidence expires at the end of the year, reports the Associated Press. Leaders of the Innocence Project Northwest hope the Legislature will act quickly next year to revive the state’s post-conviction DNA testing law, but they’re worried crucial evidence might be lost in the meantime.
Washington law allows prisoners to request DNA testing of evidence, if such testing wasn’t available when they were convicted. The Legislature set the law to expire at the end of this year, thinking there would be an initial rush of prisoners seeking DNA testing and then demand for it would diminish. But in fact, requests for DNA testing have remained constant, with 14 last year. A legislative proposal to extend the post-conviction DNA testing law passed a committee but failed to get a vote in the House or Senate. Supporters say time ran out on the bill, and they’re confident legislators will act quickly to extend the law in January.