Monday, May 18, 2009

Double standards for DNA testing

Prosecutors don't have any problem using DNA testing to win convictions, but when it comes to appeals that could successfully prove wrongful convictions they fight DNA testing requests, tooth and nail. The prosecutors offer an array of excuses from closure for the families of victims to eyewitness testimony that establishes guilt. But there are many documented cases where eyewitnesses have been proven wrong by the testing and hard to see how it benefits the victims' families if an innocent person is in jail while the real perp still goes free. One might think the prosecutors real concern is in having their convictions overturned.
Prosecutors said much the same when Douglas Warney, convicted of murder in Rochester in 1997, argued that a DNA test could lead to the real killer. They called his assertion “a drawn-out kind of sequence of if, if, if.” Yet that is exactly what happened after Mr. Warney’s DNA test, and the killer, when he was identified, confessed.
In the end, fighting the requests probably uses more court resources than simply allowing them and the tests more likely than not would establish whether the defendant's claim of innocence are valid. But of course such a common sense approach would imply the main concern is serving justice. It's been a long time since I believed the system delivered that, especially for what appears to be in this article, poor defendants of color.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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