News 11.30.09

Missing Evidence Presents a Problem in Kentucky

In 2004, Kentucky improved its evidence preservation law, requiring that law enforcement agencies save evidence from most major crimes.  But an Associated Press report this weekend shows that evidence is missing in several key cases across the state and casts doubt on preservation policies in practice.

Defense attorneys say evidence has gone missing in Kentucky, resulting in problems for six capital cases and possibly hundreds of other prosecutions, including rapes and robberies.

All the cases predate DNA testing, which can now be used to determine guilt.

"It's really becoming an issue," said Kentucky Innocence Project chief Ted Shouse, whose office is reviewing more than 4,000 old cases. "This is going to be a huge problem."

… "Clearly, the number of exonerations from DNA in this country should be a wake up call to preserve evidence," Shouse said.

The catch is making sure the law is followed by all parties – clerks, court reporters, law enforcement, said Rebecca Brown, a policy advocate for The Innocence Project, a New York-based national organization that seeks to free those wrongly convicted.

"There's sometimes a disconnect between what's on the books and actual practice," Brown said. "A mandate doesn't necessarily make it down to all the people charged with retaining that evidence."


Read the full story here

. (Associated Press, 11/26/09)

Procedures mandating proper collection, cataloguing and storage of crime scene evidence are crucial to a fair justice system — preserving evidence doesn’t only help free the innocent, it also helps law enforcement agencies solve cold cases.


View a map of evidence preservation policies nationwide

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Learn more about the Innocence Project’s recommended policies for evidence preservation

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