DNA will be used less often in exoneration cases because it is being used up in some of the oldest post-conviction cases, primarily because of uneven efforts by states to preserve it, reports USA Today. A shortage of DNA evidence would remove the clearest path to exoneration. Says Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project, “We’re seeing very few DNA cases where testing is a possibility.” Of the project’s pending investigations, 90 percent are non-DNA cases. Instead, other evidence, such as new witnesses, is needed to prove innocence. Nearly 10 years ago, half of its cases depended on DNA testing. A separate USA Today story says that half the states lack requirements to preserve DNA evidence.
Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas fears Texas cases dependent on DNA could “run out” within a year. Of the 700 cases his group believes have potentially credible claims, 225 would be heavily weighted on the outcome of DNA analysis – if the material exists. The rest involve issues such as witness identification problems and coerced confessions. Barry Scheck of the national Innocence Project, whose work relies almost exclusively on DNA testing, says enough cases exist to sustain a decade’s worth of potential exonerations. His group says the DNA caseload has increased from 141 in 2004 to 278 this year. “These cases are not slowing down,” he says, adding his colleagues “are not looking hard enough.” He says DNA cases will decline eventually – but not yet.