The Washington State legislative session ended last month, with many issues tackled but some left untouched. The Innocence Project Northwest, operating out of the University of Washington School of Law, worked tirelessly on a biological material retention bill that eventually died in the House of Representatives.
The bill initially placed an 18-month moratorium on the destruction of biological evidence in felony cases. It also created a work group to recommend permanent, statewide standards for preserving biological material. Currently, Washington State has no policy on the preservation of biological material. In the House, Rep. Tina Orwall from Des Moines sponsored the bill. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille from Tacoma.
Increasingly in the last 10 years, DNA analysis has been used to convict criminals and to free the wrongfully convicted. Innocence projects have expanded throughout the nation as DNA analysis becomes more reliable and less expensive to use in post-conviction review. In Washington last year, Jeramie Davis was released from a 40-year sentence on a murder he did not commit. In that case, the Spokane police asked that an unidentified DNA profile on the homicide weapon and in the victim’s car be uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a federal database of DNA profiles. The database came back with a match to another person, Julio Davila, whose fingerprints were also found at the crime scene. Continue reading