New Colorado Law Makes It Easier for Wrongly Convicted People to Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence

03.10.23 By Innocence Staff

New Colorado Law Makes It Easier for Wrongly Convicted People to Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence

(Denver, CO — March 10, 2023) Today, Governor Jared Polis signed into law legislation that fixes Colorado’s post-conviction DNA testing statute to help ensure that wrongly convicted Coloradans can access DNA testing that can prove their innocence. The legislation was passed overwhelmingly in Colorado’s House and Senate last month.

“This victory marks the day that many more innocent Coloradans got the chance to prove their innocence in court,” said Innocence Project State Policy Advocate Bay Scoggin. “This bill makes critical changes to a decades-old law. Colorado had lagged behind other states in updating its post-conviction DNA statute according to best practices learned over the last two decades — until now. We are very grateful to the Korey Wise Innocence Project at the University of Colorado, Rep. Daugherty, the bill’s primary sponsor, and all the co-sponsors who showed such great leadership in getting this bill done. We can’t wait to see the results.”

“It’s been encouraging to see such strong bipartisan support for this important improvement to Colorado’s DNA testing statute. The law gives new hope to the wrongfully convicted who will now have a fair opportunity to secure the DNA testing they need to prove their innocence,” said Jeanne Segil, Policy Director at the Korey Wise Innocence Project.

In the 20 years since Colorado’s original post-conviction DNA testing statute was enacted, it has only allowed a handful of petitioners to access DNA testing. This has resulted in only three DNA-related exonerations in this state, including the case of Robert “Rider” Dewey. This is far fewer DNA-based exonerations than other states of similar size that have more modern post-conviction DNA testing statutes. Most states have adjusted their mechanisms for post-conviction DNA testing to reflect advances in DNA technology and a more nuanced understanding of the role of DNA evidence. Colorado now joins these states.

The law, which will go into effect on Oct. 23, 2023, will improve Colorado’s post-conviction statute by making these updates to the current law:

  • Changes the standard for obtaining testing, allowing people with reasonable claims of innocence to access evidence in the state’s control.
  • Allows formerly incarcerated people to access DNA testing to prove their innocence and clear their names.
  • Allows for subsequent petitions for DNA testing, particularly in cases where advances in DNA technology make it possible to obtain clearer results.
  • Ensures that all parties have a voice in determining the means and methods of testing, and allows for the testing to be conducted at private laboratories upon agreement of all parties.
  • Enables courts to vacate convictions upon receiving DNA evidence that proves a person’s innocence.
  • Ensures that victims’ rights are respected and the Victims Rights Act is followed.

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