In the past four years, Washington State has seen four DNA exonerations, prompting the
Innocence Project Northwest
to push for legislation stipulating how long biological material collected at crime scenes must be preserved.
KING5- NBC Seattle highlighted the case of Ted Bradford, who spent almost 10 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit – and another four years awaiting a new trial – before he was retried and acquitted based on DNA evidence of his innocence.
Despite a lack of physical evidence connecting Bradford to the crime, he was initially convicted based largely on a false confession he gave after a lengthy interrogation.
“I was just a young kid and I was scared and I wanted out of that situation. So, after that 9-hour interrogation I finally said, ‘Well I’ll make a statement just to get out of this room,’” said Bradford.
Bradford was convicted in 1996 and sentenced to 10 years behind bars. The Innocence Project Northwest took on his case six years later and petitioned for DNA testing. Results returned two profiles, one was consistent with the victim and the other was an unknown man, not Bradford. Luckily for Bradford and the other Washington exonerees, DNA evidence was available for post-conviction testing, but currently the state doesn’t have a law mandating physical evidence in all criminal cases be properly preserved.
“When someone writes to us many years later and after conviction and we’re finally able to take a look at the case and request the log of evidence available, 30-40 percent of those cases the evidence has already been lost or destroyed. So there’s not a way we can move forward on those cases,” said Lara Zarowsky with Innocence Project Northwest.
Laws and policies on proper evidence preservation help police and prosecutors solve cold cases, and they give inmates a chance – often the only real chance – to prove their innocence.
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