SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Eastern Iowa court clerks have amassed a large collection of evidence from criminal cases due to a state law requiring all evidence filed in court to be held well after convictions in case of appeals or emerging technology that could test evidence in a new way.
The law has led to a collection of murder weapons, bloody clothing, drugs and hundreds of photos in a storage room in the Law Enforcement Center basement in Woodbury, The Sioux City Journal (http://bit.ly/2uZngGm ) reported.
“We call it the drug room, but there’s a lot more than drugs in here,” said Amy Berntson, Woodbury County Clerk of Court.
There have been two recent instances in the state where old evidence was retested with new technology to further prove a conviction.
Two men were convicted in separate cases involving both rape and kidnappings about 30 years ago. They both appealed that there was no DNA evidence that proved they were guilty.
Bloodstained clothing and other evidence was taken from storage and tested at the state crime lab. In both cases the defendants’ DNA was found, which supported the original convictions.
For major cases where a defendant is sentenced to life in prison, evidence is kept until after the offender dies or a judge allows for the evidence to be released. Evidence is kept for a year after a civil or small claims case’s deposition. Other criminal cases hold onto evidence until 60 days after the defendant’s prison sentence expires.
The county attorney’s office also has a storage area in the courthouse basement where it keeps items that weren’t used as evidence such as paper records, deposition transcripts, videos, reports and emails.
The clerk’s office sends notices to parties before it gets rid of old evidence. Parties involved can also request to have personal property returned.
“More than likely people do get their property back,” Berntson said. “We do see a lot of it go back.”
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com