Tennessee Bill Requiring Preservation of Evidence in Capital Cases Advances

03.23.16 By Innocence Project Staff

The word Justice on a Courtroom Building. Photo taken in late afternoon directional light.

The Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Tuesday requiring that biological evidence be preserved in all cases involving a death sentence.

The bill in its current form requires such biological evidence to be preserved until the defendant’s execution or the completion of their sentence and allows the intentional destruction of such evidence to be handled as criminal contempt.

The committee discussed the bill for two weeks and heard testimony from exoneree Ray Krone, who spent more than a decade on death row in Arizona for the rape and murder of a cocktail waitress before DNA testing revealed in 2002 that he was not the perpetrator.  If the biological evidence from the crime were not preserved, Krone could have been put to death for a crime committed by someone else. A representative from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations also testified, saying that the preservation of biological evidence can be the only thing that keeps an innocent person from being put to death.

The bill, sponsored by Nashville Republican Senator Steve Dickerson, also passed in a vote by a House subcommittee Tuesday afternoon.

The bill is a step in the right direction, but should be expanded to include other types of felony crimes. According to recommendations by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation, biological evidence connected to all homicides, sexual assaults, kidnappings, felony assaults and robberies should be preserved at least for the duration of the defendant’s incarceration to prevent wrongful convictions with lengthy prison sentences as well.

Read the Nashville Scene coverage here.


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