Thursday, March 27, 2008

DNA Bill Clears Senate

The Senate has given final clearance to a bill that guarantees prison inmates a new trial if law enforcement authorities fail to preserve DNA evidence.

SB 205, which was motivated by the case of a Denver resident convicted of rape on the basis of the victim's testimony that she saw him in a dream, passed third reading Wednesday on a 23-9 vote.

Sponsoring Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, introduced the measure as a response to the loss by Denver police of DNA evidence in the case of Clarence Moses-El. Denver police threw away the DNA evidence despite a 1995 court order requiring the agency to keep it.

The "no" votes were all cast by Republicans, including by bill co-sponsors Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, Steve Ward, R-Littleton, and Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock.

The bill requires a court to grant an convicted felon a new trial "in a case in which material evidence containing DNA or some other kind of evidence that is subject to a preservation order or an order for release and testing is destroyed, lost, or otherwise disposed of before the evidence may be used for the purpose for which it is being preserved."

Current Colorado law does not require that evidence in a criminal case be preserved for any specific period of time. Another bill under consideration at the General Assembly would require law enforcement authorities to keep DNA evidence for various periods of time, depending on the nature of the crime and the specific DNA evidence at issue.

Timothy Masters, a Fort Collins man convicted in 1998 of a 1987 murder, was recently released from prison, and his conviction was reversed, after DNA evidence preserved in his case proved that he could not have committed the murder.

SB 205 now heads to the House.