Friday, August 15, 2008

Innocents in Prison

From The Atlantic:

As recently as 20 years ago, it was extraordinarily rare for a convicted prisoner to establish his or her innocence conclusively enough to get public attention. That changed with breakthroughs in DNA science.

The 205th DNA exoneration since 1989 was recorded earlier this month by the Innocence Project, a group of crack defense lawyers who have made such cases their mission. The exonerated prisoners—including 15 who had been sentenced to death—have been found innocent by courts, prosecutors, or governors based on post-conviction DNA testing.

But America has been too slow to appreciate that the DNA exonerations, and other evidence, suggest that many thousands of other wrongly convicted people are rotting in prisons and jails around the country. And our federal, state, and local governments and courts have done far too little to adopt proposed criminal justice reforms that could reduce the number of innocent people convicted while nailing more of the real criminals.

Full Story Here.

1 comment:

William Newmiller said...

One of the things we've learned as parents of a son now appealing a conviction for a murder he did not commit is that the courts rely upon precedents that come from cases of wrongful convictions. Perhaps most amazing is the case of Arizona v. Youngblood. In that case Arizona prosecutors appealed to the US Supreme Court after Youngblood's conviction was overturned by state courts. The state court reasoned that because the authorities had allowed DNA evidence to detoriate--evidence that could have exonerated Youngblood--his rights to due process had been violated. Chief Justice William Rehnquist pronounced that the state had no mandate to preserve evidence that was only potentially exculpatory. Fourteen years later, Youngblood was exonerated as a result of more sophisticated testing that became available. Another individual admitted to the crime and Youngblood was released after spending close to ten years in prison.

Despite the injustice of the Youngblood case, it remains the precedent that relieves authorities from the common-sense requirement to preserve evidence of all types, including DNA.

For more about our son's specific case, visit For more information about the issue of evidence spoliation and the Youngblood case, see