The law allowing that post-conviction testing expired last fall. Supporters say there’s even more at stake than whether the wrong person is in prison.
Wilton Dedge is living proof that prosecutors make mistakes. He served more than two decades in a Florida prison for a rape he didn’t commit.
Wilton says, "After what I’ve lived through, I know that it happens."
Dedge was at the Capitol pushing for legislation that would let people convicted of old crimes before DNA testing became popular request the tests that finally set him free.
His voice cracked as he described his own wrongful conviction.
Dedge adds, "That shouldn’t have happened. We need to stop."
A similar bill last year went nowhere at the Capitol, in part because of cost concerns, but also because many folks don’t have a lot of sympathy for people in prison.
Committee Chair Dick Kravitz says supporters tried to ram the bill through last year and lawmakers balked. This time he promised at least a vote at the next hearing.
Dick Kravitz, (R) Orange Park, says, "People who are wrongly accused who are in jail now, no matter what we think, whatever, they are victims, just like someone who’s a victim of a crime."
And if an innocent person is behind bars, supporters argue that means the real bad guy is still on the loose.
David Rothman of the Florida Bar Association says, "The system hasn’t found him; he’s out there."
Dedge is hoping lawmakers will agree DNA testing should be used to help the innocent as well as convict the guilty. Nationwide, DNA testing has freed at least 174 people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.