Two groups of influential lawyers and judges asked the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday to give convicts an extra year to prove their innocence through the use of DNA tests.
The Florida Bar and the state’s Criminal Procedure Rules Committee filed an emergency petition with the court because hundreds of prison inmates convicted years ago might not get the chance to meet the Oct. 1 deadline for filing the paperwork to perform the tests, reports the Miami Herald.
The deadline was written into a 2001 DNA-testing law passed after the exoneration of Frank Lee Smith, a Broward County man who was convicted of a 1985 rape and murder. He died of cancer on Death Row before he was freed.
Under the law, inmates have to find DNA evidence in their cases — some of which are years old — show that their identity in the case was truly a key issue, and show that a DNA test could conclusively establish innocence.
Advocates for the extension note that there aren’t enough lawyers to take on the 500 or so DNA cases pending in Florida.