While I think the Lege might be receptive to Watkins' idea to enter DNA-identified suspects into the sex offender registry, my educated guess would be that the federal courts would not let that stand without actual convictions to back up the entries. Moreover, I'm unconvinced the sex offender registries work as advertised thanks to research showing they actually increase recidivism for those on their rolls, so for my money it doesn't sound like Watkins has struck upon the right solution, yet, though I understand his frustration.
It's an issue Dallas must face because, unlike most counties nationwide, it has preserved DNA evidence for decades. And though 19 prisoners have been exonerated as a result, that evidence is incriminating people as well.
Dallas police are taking a second look at hundreds of old rape cases in light of advancing technology. That leaves officials grappling with how to handle the newfound suspects.
If they can't be charged, Dallas police and District Attorney Craig Watkins would like to require them to register as sex offenders, and to have their deeds noted in their criminal histories.
"This is all new," Mr. Watkins says. "We're going into uncharted territory." ...
The statute of limitation on rape in Texas spanned only five years in the 1980s. Such laws protect the rights of defendants in situations where time has washed away evidence that could exonerate them. People die, memories fade, records disappear.
Because of the certainty brought by new technology, Texas' statute of limitations for rape was eliminated in 1996 for cases with suspect DNA. But the U.S. Constitution says those accused of crimes in the past can only be held accountable based on the laws in place at the time.
Along with the string of exonerations in Big D, these cases show why evidence preservation can be important even when it may not prove anything at the time. Dallas' practice of saving old biological evidence not only has exonerated the innocent but identified the guilty. Who knows what new technologies may exist 20 years from now that might provide a similar, future window on innocence and guilt based on re-examined evidence in today's cases?