Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DNA Bill Advances

Several sponsors of a DNA preservation bill defected Tuesday, but it wasn't nearly enough to topple the bill in its first test before the full state Senate.

Senate Bill 205, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver, and 25 other senators, would grant new trials to criminal defendants in cases where DNA evidence was thrown out despite a court order requiring it be saved for testing.

The bill is inspired by the case of Clarence Moses-EL, who was convicted of a 1987 rape.

Moses-EL has said he is innocent, and in 1995 Denver police tossed the only physical evidence in the case, which a judge had ruled needed to be preserved.

"I hope this is the only time this has happened," said Sen. John Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat who is one of the bill's co-sponsors. "I hope it never happens in the future. But the truth of the matter is, when it happens, someone's life is completely changed."

The bill passed on a stand-up, sit-down vote, with more than half the chamber standing in support of the bill. But several Republicans who are co-sponsors on the bill, including Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, stayed seated when the vote was called.

Wiens said he signed onto the bill early on but has since changed his mind after learning more. At least three other Republicans listed as co-sponsors on the bill also stayed seated.

Wiens said he would pull his name from the list of co-sponsors.

"I've been convinced that there are plenty of other opportunities to remedy that system," Wiens said.

Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said there are already numerous appeals opportunities in the court system, and if those fail, a defendant can seek clemency from the governor.

"This legislation is about one person," Penry said. "And to me it's a precedent we should all be concerned about setting."

But Sen. Shawn Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican who is another of the bill's co-sponsors, said the bill could apply to many cases where defendants lose the ability to test the DNA evidence in the case against them.

"As awful as it may be for a victim or a victim's family to contemplate a retrial, our first responsibility here ought to be for justice," Mitchell said.

The Denver Post

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