Colorado District Attorneys have begun adding language to guilty plea agreements that allow them to destroy evidence after a conviction is final, and a state lawmaker said this negates the spirit of a new state law requiring the preservation of evidence for us in future appeals.
"They're thumbing their noses at us," says state Rep. Terrance Carroll, House Judiciary chairman. "The DAs are arrogant enough to believe that they can circumvent laws they don't like and get away with it." …
Prosecutors immediately began adding language to plea deals requiring defendants to waive their right to preserve evidence. More than 90 percent of criminal cases end in pleas rather than trials.
Ted Tow of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council guesses most of the state's DAs are asking defendants to sign off on destruction.
"To mandate saving every piece of evidence on every conviction, regardless of its future value, is an unfunded mandate . . . that simply cannot be sustained," he says.
Tow adds that a plea deal "automatically means" a defendant is guilty, in which case prosecutors see no identification issues or need to preserve DNA.
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. (Denver Post, 06/28/08)
Of the 218 people exonerated by DNA testing to date, eleven pled guilty – usually to avoid the risk of a harsher sentence at trial. Because of cases like this, the Innocence Project recommends that all physical evidence in all criminal cases be properly maintained as long as the defendant is incarcerated, under supervision or in civil litigation.
Read more about the Innocence Project’s evidence preservation reforms here