SC Column: Why we should preserve evidence
A column in Friday’s Myrtle Beach Sun News asks why South Carolina doesn’t have a law on the books requiring evidence preservation in criminal cases. The hard science of DNA testing has freed 218 innocent people and solved countless cold cases. In the wake of the DNA revolution, dozens of states have moved to enact evidence preservation laws. But many, including South Carolina, have not created statewide standards for evidence preservation, and old evidence – often the only lifeline to an exoneration or to solving a case – is lost or destroyed. South Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill to require evidence preservation during this session.
Consider these numbers: the 218 DNA exonerations nationwide have been clustered in 32 states, meaning 18 states have not seen an exoneration. Of those 18, ten lack an evidence preservation law. This may not be a coincidence.
The Innocence Project has closed countless cases in which DNA testing cannot be conducted because evidence has been lost or destroyed. Improved evidence preservation is vital to building a more fair and efficient system of criminal justice in the U.S. Isaac Bailey’s column in Friday’s agrees:
Such a law has been considered this legislative session but is lost somewhere in the abyss of a House committee in Columbia. It's part of a bill that would allow DNA samples to be taken from those arrested for certain crimes and tested to prove innocence or guilt.
A lack of such a law in South Carolina is wrong on multiple levels…. Why should we be proud of a justice system which relies on a process that isn't all that just?