Dozens of law students are being recruited to help track down DNA evidence that could eventually lead to freedom for hundreds of prison inmates.
The project is similar to one in Illinois, where journalism students found enough evidence to cast doubt on that state’s death penalty.
Investigators in Florida are working against the clock, page after page, folder after folder. Innocence project investigators are looking through hundreds of court files for DNA evidence that has never been tested.
"There is often items of evidence that is taken that are indicative of the identity of perpetrator, but no one's ever thought to test them,” explains Hwe Dao, Innocence Projector Investigator.
The task is daunting, all of this represents just one file, and the clock is ticking.
State law sets an October deadline for inmates to have DNA tested from their crime scene. The project is headed by famed lawyer Barry Scheck who came to the capitol seeking more time, given time he believes hundreds of people found guilty of rape and murder will be proven innocent.
"Forty to 50-percent of the time when we finally find the evidence in a case where it makes a difference, the results come out in favor of the inmates,” comments Scheck.
Scheck has gotten the ear of Attorney General Charlie Crist.
"We don't ever want innocent people to be put to death, that's not what anybody that is fair minded would want,” comments Crist.
And state Sen. Alex Villalobos who passed the October deadline in the first place is willing to listen.
"Then if they tell me exactly how much time they will need it will determine wether or not it's feasible,” says Sen. Villalobos.
More than two dozen law students from Florida State's law school have been recruited they will spend their summers tracking down the physical evidence that investigators believe could make a life or death difference.
Supporters of more time say to test DNA is a win-win for law enforcement because while it may free some inmates, it will also point to the guilty, who may still be on the street committing additional crimes.
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