FLORIDA, USA. HOUSE PASSES BILL TO END TIME LIMIT ON DNA TESTS FOR INMATES
April 21, 2006: inmates who believe DNA can prove their innocence would no longer face a deadline for pursuing the issue under a measure passed today by the House.
When lawmakers 4 years ago gave prisoners the right to seek DNA tests to try to prove their innocence they put a time limit on the measure. The deadline came in October, but was extended to this coming July by the state Supreme Court.
The measure, which passed 113-1, removes the time limit and allows anyone convicted of a felony and sentenced in the past, or in the future, to petition for DNA testing.
Starting July 1, the bill, if passed, will also allow prisoners who plead guilty or no contest to crimes to seek to have their plea thrown out if new DNA evidence that they didn't have access to before they entered their plea arises.
The only dissenting vote in the House came from Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Fort Myers, who said he was standing up for victims of crime. He said the measure could allow prisoners to seek to be freed or get lighter sentences years after a crime when prosecutors may no longer be able to strongly refute the prisoner's claims.
The measure also requires DNA evidence from crimes to be kept as long as the person's sentence.
The bill (HB 61), sponsored by Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee and Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, now goes to the Senate where a similar measure is still in the committee process. (Sources: Associated Press, 21/04/2006)