FL Extends DNA Testing Deadline

by TChris

Why should there be a deadline to correct an unjust loss of freedom? An editorial in the Palm Beach Post praises the Florida Supreme Court for extending (for the third time) the deadline by which wrongfully convicted inmates must seek DNA testing that might exonerate them. It also argues that the state legislature should eliminate the deadline.

Why? Ask Wilton Dedge, whom DNA evidence freed in August 2004 after the state wrongfully imprisoned him for 22 years. Ask Luis Diaz, whom DNA evidence freed last August after wrongful conviction stole 26 years from his life. In both cases, the crime was rape. Ask the men who have been released from Death Row and exonerated. Ask the family of the man whom DNA evidence cleared after he had died of cancer while on Death Row.

The Tallahassee Democrat agrees that "any deadline runs contrary to the interest of justice."

Perhaps the worst legacy of the Clinton years is the ill-named Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which sets deadlines that (in most circumstances) prevent inmates from pursuing habeas corpus relief in federal courts after a year has passed from the date their convictions became final. Inmates who may have been convicted in an unfair trial, but who lack the resources or knowledge to retain counsel or to file their own petition within that year, are often left with no relief.

The Florida Bar's Criminal Procedure Rule Committee advocates abolishing Florida's deadline for DNA testing rather than extending it. That only makes sense. Justice should not be bound by deadlines.

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