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Extend the Window?

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

DNA testing freed Wilton Dedge from prison after he’d served 22 years behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit. He credits the DNA test and the volunteer lawyers who pushed for it for finally getting him out.

Wilton says, "I’d still be in prison, there’s no doubt in my mind, and if it wasn’t for people like Jenny and the Innocence Project out of New York, I’d still be there."

Some estimates say at least 800 of Florida’s more than 80,000 inmates may have been wrongly convicted, but the deadline for DNA tests for convictions that occurred more than four years ago expires this fall.

Rep. Pricilla Taylor co-sponsored a bill to extend the deadline.

Rep. Pricilla Taylor says, "To do the right thing is to give these people an opportunity to have a quality of life outside of the prison system if they are innocent, and we’re finding that some of them are."

Jeb Bush is not ruling out extending the law to allow DNA testing in old convictions, but he's got some questions he wants answered first. The governor says attorneys for Innocence Project already got the deadline extended once in order to get requests in for DNA testing of all inmates who claim to be innocent.

Gov. Jeb Bush says, "They were given a period of time to do it and I'd like, before I gave an opinion on whether to extend it again, I'd be curious to know how many cases have been looked at."

While Bush waits for his numbers, time is running out for potentially innocent inmates. The bill that could free them has never even had a hearing, and the legislative session ends in less than three weeks.

Attorneys for the Innocence Project say they have requests for DNA testing pending for 700 inmates, but they may not be able to process them all by the October deadline.

Once the deadline passes, attorneys say there’s a risk the evidence in the cases will be destroyed.


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