Since the early 1990s, DNA testing cleared hundreds of innocent people wrongfully convicted and brought guilty people to justice after decades where their cases went unsolved. Colorado has allowed postconviction DNA testing for over 20 years, but just three people were exonerated using it. Some would claim that the courts and prosecutors got it right the first time, but the minuscule number of exonerated individuals instead reflects the state’s hurdles for using DNA testing.
A new bi-partisan bill
There is now a new bi-partisan bill with support in both chambers called HB23-1034 “Measures To Expand Postconviction DNA Testing,” which would lower the bar for testing. It unanimously passed a Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2023.
“The purpose of this policy is to improve our statute and allow petitioners access to DNA testing and identify the actual perpetrators of crimes,” said state Senate Majority Whip Julie Gonzales, a Democrat from Denver and a bill sponsor. “We all want to ensure justice is served and actual perpetrators are serving time.”
While the courts, law enforcement and legal professionals generally try their best to follow the rules, the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center estimates that the criminal justice system has a 3% to 6% rate of error, which adds up to wrongfully convicting and imprisoning thousands of innocent individuals over the years.
As things stand, individuals can request postconviction DNA testing if there was no DNA testing at the time of the original prosecution. HB23-1034 would expand the opportunity of DNA testing to include those in jail, on parole or probation, or registered sex offenders. Moreover, it would allow those who previously used DNA testing to be retested using more up-to-date technology.
Watch this space for more information on this crucial issue.