Mistaken identity

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2006 at 11:11 p.m.
It's happened again. Another Florida inmate has been released after decades in prison because DNA evidence showed he didn't commit the crime. Alan Crotzer, now 45, of Tampa, served 24 years in prison for the rape of a woman and child as well as robbery and kidnapping. He and two others were sentenced to 130 years in prison. The others, who since have said they didn't know Crotzer, remain in prison.
Crotzer's story is similar to that of Wilton Dedge of Brevard County, who served 22 years for a rape that DNA evidence later showed he didn't commit. Dedge finally was released in 2004, but the Legislature delayed passage of a $2 million compensation bill for a year for political reasons.
Last week, Dedge was back in Tallahassee asking the Legislature to pass a bill that would give all inmates the right to seek DNA testing in cases where it would shed light on their guilt or innocence. Although the bill seems to have clear sailing in the Senate, a House committee delayed action indefinitely, pending a yet-to-be scheduled study session to consider the issue in more detail.
Still, the bill has broad support - from, among others, Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Supreme Court, and state prosecutors and public defenders. The reluctance in the House may be related to the potential cost of widespread testing, but it more likely stems from a fear of being perceived as being soft on crime in an election year.

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