Evidence in Washington State that could exonerate people wrongly convicted of crimes might be destroyed after Dec. 31 because a state law requiring authorities to preserve DNA evidence expires at year’s end, the Associated Press reprots. Leaders of the Innocence Project Northwest hope the legislature will act quickly next year to revive the state’s post-conviction DNA testing law; they worry that crucial evidence might be lost in the meantime.
State law allows prisoners to request DNA testing of evidence, if such testing wasn’t available when they were convicted. Legislators wrote the law to expire this year, thinking there would be an initial rush of prisoners seeking DNA testing and then demand would diminish. DNA testing requests have remained constant, with 14 last year. “It is so important to preserve this evidence, to give inmates who may be innocent an opportunity to go back and test for DNA,” said Tim Junkin, a Maryland attorney who wrote a book about the first man freed from death row by DNA testing. A bill in the Washington legislature earlier this year would have extended the post-conviction DNA testing law, requiring authorities to save DNA evidence for possible future testing. It was approved by a committee but failed to get a vote in the House or Senate.