Debate continues on Colorado evidence preservation bill
For several months, lawmakers in Colorado have been developing reforms to require the preservation of evidence in criminal cases. Saving evidence can resolve claims of innocence and help law enforcement solve “cold” cases. But at a hearing last week in the Colorado Legislature, advocates and policymakers discovered that language was inserted into proposed legislation that would only require evidence to preserved in future cases – not in any past cases, where the evidence could be used to confirm guilt or prove innocence. This would be the only evidence preservation law in the country to exclude the cases of current prisoners.
The wording, first inserted in a February draft of the legislation, went unnoticed by lawmakers until a House judiciary hearing last week.
Rebecca Brown, policy analyst with the New York-based Innocence Project, was first to express dismay that a bill she had been involved in drafting would no longer cover evidence in old cases — particularly those convicted before the advent of DNA analysis — and that it would fail to prevent authorities from destroying old evidence.
"No other state in the country that requires evidence to be preserved explicitly limits their coverage to future cases," Brown said Friday.
Most lawmakers backing the bill agree that it should be amended to remove the no-retroactivity clause, saying it clashes with the spirit of a governor's task force that recommended overhauling current state law providing no duty to preserve evidence.
"Everybody I've talked to absolutely does not want to preclude or wipe out any ability for current prisoners to have their evidence saved," said bill sponsor state. Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge. She and other lawmakers acknowledged overlooking the passage on the eighth page of the proposal.
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. (Denver Post, 03/22/08)
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