Prosecutors and lawmakers who were once suspicious of DNA challenges to convictions are now increasingly embracing the new technology as a backstop in the criminal justice system, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Says Blake Harrison of the National Conference of State Legislatures: “If anything, there is public pressure to expand the use of these types of post-conviction reevaluations because of the obvious public benefit to making sure that you have got the right person.” Of the 33 states that have passed laws establishing procedures for DNA testing, 12 have sunset provisions, which offer limited time for DNA tests in cases where inmates have no more options for appeal. Such provisions were enacted in part out of concern five years ago that state courts might be flooded with appeals calling for expensive tests. But the flood hasn’t happened.
When Florida passed its DNA law in 2001, legislators gave potential appellants until 2003 to file a request for testing. That deadline was extended to 2005, and then to July 2006. A powerful state senator – and former prosecutor – is pushing for a new DNA law that removes any deadline. In Michigan, the deadline has been extended from January 2006 to January 2009; Louisiana moved its deadline from August 2005 to August 2007; New Mexico has pushed its deadline from July 2002 to July 2006.